Our half-pound hunk of Dai Due‘s savory salt pork, hacked into slim slabs and rendered crisp, didn’t even reach the bean pot. We munched every last baconey strip. Herbal and meaty, sumptuously marbled, Richardson Farms pork belly is spun into gastronomical gold by alchemist Chef Jesse Griffiths. As the crunchy distillation yielded about ½ cup of luscious pig fat, the crème de la gras, plenty of bean-enhancing magic remained. Sign up for the Dai Due weekly e-newsletter so you can pre-order locally sourced creations from their imaginatively compiled offerings. Then pick up your goods at the Saturday Austin Farmers Market, or try your luck and just show up at their booth to see what’s still available. Impeccably seasoned, with no MSG or nitrates added, and sustainably produced, these meats will righteously fortify your cooking.
AUSTIN BAKED BEANS makes a potful
- 1 package (½-pound) Dai Due salt pork, cut up as you please.
- 1 pound organic navy beans or great northern beans, soaked 8 hours (or overnight) and drained. You can do this a couple days ahead and store the beans, well sealed, in the refrigerator. I buy these bean varieties in bulk at Whole Foods. Remember to bring your own container and get the weight tared at the front desk.
- 2 medium local or organic onions, chopped. Hillside Farms at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market is still selling red and yellow onions.
- 2 bay leaves. Try growing this easy bush.
- small pinch dried thyme
- ¾ cup organic tomato puree or sauce. If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, check Whole Foods and Central Market’s store brands for a good value. In this last batch of beans I used the leftover puree from draining canned chopped tomatoes for pizza. Some folks use ketchup. People that put tomato products into their baked beans are not from Boston. It’s up to you!
- ½ cup organic maple syrup, cane syrup (such as Steen’s or Fain’s) or sorghum (Fain’s)
- 1/3 cup turbinado sugar or organic brown sugar. Central Market’s own brand is usually the best buy.
- 1 Tablespoon organic coarse grain mustard. Ditto on the CM brand.
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked is quite complementary,
- ½ teaspoon quatre épices, optional
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons salt. I use Real Salt.
- 3 cups very hot water
- 2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar. Whole Foods 365 brand sells for less.
Render the salt pork. Start the pieces out in a cold pan and fry over medium heat to cook them evenly . Drain, saving the fat, and return several tablespoons of grease back to the pan to saute your onions. Cook your onions until translucent, adding the bay leaves and thyme about halfway through.
Dump the onions, drained beans and the remaining ingredients into a Dutch oven (’bout 6- or 7-quart size) or your slow cooker crock. You can add the cooked salt pork, too. We devoured ours, though! Either place your Dutch oven into a preheated 300º oven and bake, covered, for about 4 hours (stirring halfway through) or set your slow cooker on LOW and cook for 4 to 6 hours. Either way, check for adequate liquid and add more (very hot) water if necessary to avoid scorching your frijoles.
When the beans have cooked and tenderized sufficiently, stir in the vinegar. If the sauce needs further thickening, remove the cover (for either cooking method) and continue to cook until as thick as you like.
Taste for salt, sweetness and tang and adjust as required to please your palate. We like to serve our baked beans with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.
Enjoy Sunday’s marathon!