Saturday, November 24, 2012

Appalachian Cider Baked Beans

October 7, 2012
  • Hot Dog
  • Appalachian Cider Baked Beans
  • Sun Chips
  • Koko Brown Ale (Kona Brewing Company)
I like baked beans but I am still searching for the perfect baked bean recipe. A major reason this is a challenge for me is that I don't really know what I am seeking. I think that I'll know the perfect beans when I eat them, but I can't really be sure. Is it the beans that my mother would occasionally prepare that I remember so fondly? Is it the flavor of one of the many brands of canned baked beans that I am searching for? I'm pretty sure it's not Grandma Brown's Baked Beans which I remember from my childhood, and which you can't buy in San Jose except by mail order, but which now seem pretty bland to me. (My mom would bake them with a frosting of browned sugar, probably my favorite part of the dish.) Thus I was intrigued and excited when a Facebook friend posted a recipe for Appalachian Cider Baked Beans. I hadn't considered that parts of the country outside Boston would have their own baked bean traditions. Could this be the Holy Grail of baked beans I seek? I had to try.

On this particular Sunday, way back at the start of October, I was still home alone. It was also the day of the San Jose Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon, an event I haven't missed since its inception six years ago. I generally get home by noon so I should have plenty of time to fix dinner. However, I knew I would not have a lot of energy. The beans take some time to prepare, but not much effort, so I was confident they would be doable. And they pair well with other dishes that are easy to prepare.

The use of apple juice (easier to find than the apple cider called for by the recipe) for baking the beans wasn't the only thing that was different from the other recipes I have used (generally for Boston Baked Beans). Instead of small white, or navy, beans the recipe called for pinto beans. I associate pinto beans with Mexican fare, not with baked beans. The recipe also recommended using sorghum molasses. I didn't have any of this so used normal molasses.

When eating baked beans for dinner I generally enjoy them with either hot dogs or hamburgers. While shopping at Whole Foods I perused their selection and purchased Fork in the Road Honest Dogs with Pasture-Raised Beef. These were uncured hot dogs. I did some research after I got home and discovered that "uncured" means no nitrates or nitrites were added.  They were a little expensive, about $1.25 each, but that's not too bad for a main course, especially when you consider how many times I've spent $5 for a hot dog at a ball game. I enjoyed these hot dogs, they have a nice flavor and are just a little bit spicy, on a toasted store-bought bun with Dijon mustard and sweet pickle relish.

The beans were good: firm and not too sweet. I didn't notice they had much apple flavor though, perhaps because I had used processed juice rather than fresh cider. However, I can't say that I was crazy about them. I think the baked bean recipe I am seeking is for something a bit sweeter and perhaps with more molasses flavor. I will need to continue trying new baked bean recipes until I find the right one.

Appalachian Cider Baked Beans from Leite's Culinaria 

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