ham and bacon baked beans
I’ve always wondered what homemade baked beans taste like. What is the difference in quality and flavour between homemade beans and the mass produced versions which I grew up on and loved? And is that disparity enough to cajole me into making baked beans regularly, instead of putting a few cans into the trolley at Woolies?
Using the Dried Borlotti Beans with Pork recipe from The Kitchen Garden companion (a wonderful book!), I discovered cooking home made baked beans is low effort and low maintenance venture. The recipe is very wholesome. This is real food to be chewed on and will play the starring role at breakfast, not the lubricating side line act canned beans usually are. I like the smokey flavours from the bacon and ham hock and if I did not try to squeeze so many beans in the pot (hence constant checks for overboiling!), it would have been really low maintenance and easy to make. Try using vincotto in the recipe as using red wine vinegar gives it a sour taste.
Splotchy borlotti beans, after an overnight soaking
Homegrown tomatoes and bouquet garni plus sliced garlic.
Baking time! With huge ham hock in tow.
Ham and Bacon Baked Beans (adapted from The Kitchen Garden Companion)
1 cup dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ham hock
2 rashers of bacon, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 4 sprigs of thyme, 4 parsley stalks and 6 sage leaves bundled with twine)
1 red chilli, slit down the centre
1 tomato, chopped (I used a few small tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp vino cotto or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Put the drained and rinsed beans into a medium sized saucepan with enough cold water to cover by 5 cm. Bring to the simmer and simmer for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender. Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and drain the beans.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Heat oil in a heavy based casserole or ideally, a dutch oven on medium heat. Add the ham hock and bacon. Fry until the bacon is golden and crispy. The ham hock should be a little coloured and some of its fat rendered down. Add the garlic, bouquet garni, chilli, tomatoes and beans. Mix gently as best as you can.
Stir the tomato paste into the reserved cooking water and pour over the beans. The mixture will look sloppy at this stage. If there is not enough liquid add an extra half cup of water. Stir in the vino cotto and season generously – beans tend to suck up a lot of salt. Cover tightly (this is where a dutch oven would be perfect) and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. At the 45 minute mark, take out the casserole and strip the ham hock, adding the shredded ham back into the beans. Discard the ham bone.
Test the beans after an hour. They should be tender and the sauce will be thicker, aromatic and garlicky. If the sauce is too wet, bake for a further half hour. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Really good with a fried egg and hot buttered toast!
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