For some reason, I decided to buy a bag of dry navy beans the last time went to the grocery store. I guess I had the idea to use my Fissler stove-top pressure cooker and was having some nostalgic feelings about my Mother cooking a “big pot of soup beans”. She usually added a big ham bone from a recently cooked ham supper. I used to complain about these meals that had no “main dish” focus…in my mind, the should have been meat. Mom would say, “If you want meat, fish that bone out of the beans. It has plenty of meat left on it!” When I objected to that, she would say, “Then make yourself a hamburger.”
I think these meals were a piece of nostalgia for Mom, too. She’s a bona fide coal miner’s daughter from Harlan County, Kentucky, born and raised during The Great Depression. Sometimes, she would make navy beans, and sometimes, it would be pinto beans; but the way she ate them was always the same: the beans has a some generous dashes of Texas Pete hot sauce. A bite of beans, a bite of onion, and a bite of good ole’ white bread. Though I’m sure beans were a cheap way to feed a lot of people in hard times, you could tell that she truly enjoyed her beans ritual.
Years later, I would try my first “real” Boston Baked Beans. Of course, I had eaten Campbell’s pork & beans; but I had never really had baked beans, from scratch. My Mother in-law was from Upstate New York and did some dishes that I didn’t get much in North Carolina. She made rare roast beef, instead of pot roast. And she made baked beans. She even had the real deal bean pot to cook then in the oven. A few years later, she would learn some German recipes. She and my Father in-law lived near Stuttgart for a couple of years, when he worked for IBM. During that time, she bought her Fissler stove-top pressure cooker…which she recently gave to me, when she found it while cleaning out a closet.
So, here we are with a pound of dried navy beans, a pressure cooker, and years worth of memories from two families. I have to admit that, while I like a bowl of navy bean soup, really prefer baked beans as a side dish, when it comes to dinner. And I still want meat. Sorry, Mom. I’m probably going to make that hamburger.
I started by soaking the dried beans in plenty of water, overnight. I started yesterday afternoon, and changed the water before I went to bed. This morning, I drained and rinsed the beans, added them to the pressure cooker pot and covered them with water. I added a few carrots, a little onion, a couple of bay leaves, a tablespoon of oil, and some salt. I have been warned not to salt beans, before cooking them, because it would make them tough. I have recently heard that it is not a problem, and that the dried beans can even be soaked in brine. I didn’t go that far, but I did salt them for cooking.
Consulting some online sources, I found that navy beans should be pressure cooked for six minutes. There were also cautions about not overfilling the cooker with water…no more than halfway for items that expand, like beans or rice. The oil, by the way, is supposed to help suppress the foam during the cooking process. At this point, I have to admit that I must have overfilled with the water. I thought it was about halfway, but a couple of minutes into full pressure, the cooker started sputtering and spitting. After the six minutes, I released the pressure and tested a bean. It was obviously not nearly done, so I’m assuming that the pressure had be lost for most of the process. I carefully poured out some of the liquid (I didn’t measure how much, but the beans were still covered.). After a little clean-up and washing the cooker’s lid and seal, I repeated the cooking cycle for another five minutes. Now, they are soft and creamy. I hope they are still going to hold up to the process for transforming them into baked beans.
After cooking the navy beans, I discarded the celery, carrots, and bay leaves. The onions and garlic pretty much dissolved. To the beans and remaining liquid, I added about 2/3 cup molasses, 1/2 cup ketchup, a handful of thickly sliced onions, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs. cider vinegar, and about 1/3 cup real bacon crumbles, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. I also had a pinch of Coleman’s English dry mustard powder…I wanted to add a teaspoon, but ran out. I was going to use some kind of smoked or salted pork product, but didn’t have any; so I substituted the bacon crumbles. One last missing ingredient is Worcestershire sauce. I thought I had some, but I’m out. Wanted a couple of tablespoons. So, I mixed all of the ingredients thoroughly and poured everything into a deep, round souffle/casserole dish.
Now it turns out that we may not be at home all afternoon/evening, so I’m popping this into the refrigerator, for now. If I make it by the store, I’ll grab some Worcestershire sauce and Coleman’s English dry mustard. Otherwise, I’ll go with it like it is.
Game show countdown music….
Okay, so I never made it to the store for the additional ingredients, and I forgot to add the brown sugar. Ugh. But honestly, my blood sugar probably benefitted from that omission. I went ahead and baked the beans for an hour at 350°F, covered with foil. Then I stirred them and baked them another hour at 275°F, uncovered. They did not turn extremely dark, like some Boston baked beans that I’ve seen. With the omissions, they probably don’t qualify; however, they were tasty anyway! Generally, I’m happy with the learning process, the lessons learned, and the results. I’ll definitely give it another try, soon!