Monday, November 08, 2004

Fèves au Lard

Saturday we warmed up the house with a batch of baked beans. Mom was in attendance, so we could have used the family recipe, but we opted to try a new recipe. Our family recipe always has some tomato in it and it also usually includes maple syrup. Mom has also taken to replacing the salt pork with ham hocks, or even going vegetarian. This time we went traditional. Serving ketchup aux fruits (usually just called "ketchup" or "ketchup maison") with fèves au lard is a must in Quebec. No self-respecting cabane a sucre meal would be complete without it. We highly recommend it.

2 lbs. dried navy beans
1/2 lb. salt pork
2 tsp. dried mustard
1 cup fancy molasses
4 tbs. bourbon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak beans overnight in a large pot. Drain. Put soaked beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Drain beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and transfer them to a large bean pot or casserole.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place salt pork in a small pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the pork and add to the beans. In a small bowl, dissolve mustard in 2 tsp. warm water. Add dissolved mustard, molasses, and bourbon to beans. Season with pepper and mix gently but thoroughly.

Pour enough of the warm reserved cooking liquid (about 3 cups) into the bean pot so that the beans are moist but not floating. Reserve remaining cooking liquid. Cover pot and bake, checking occasionally to ensure that beans are not drying out, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed. Cook until beans are soft and the bean liquor has turned rich and hearty. This will take 5 hours, or so, although we recommend baking them for 7-8 hours if at all possible. The beans will be that much tastier; your house will be that much more aromatic.

Remove cover, gently stir beans, and return to oven. Bake uncovered until cooking liquid thickens into a sauce. Season to taste with salt (you'll need very little salt as the salt pork will have provided the beans with plenty of salty flavor). Serve with a crusty loaf of bread, ketchup aux fruits, and a salad. My family has always sworn by coleslaw.

(adapted from John Thorne's "Down-East Baked Beans" as found in Serious Pig (1996) and Saveur Cooks Authentic American (1998))


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