T-minus 12 days and counting until Thanksgiving. We are hosting this year for the first time ever. It is exciting but also a little nerve wracking. Even with all the cooking we do, the idea of putting a big spread together and serving everything perfectly cooked and timed is somewhat overwhelming. To help ease the stress, we try to plan a meal that has lots forgiving dishes. Those that take very little minding while they are cooking and that provide a lot of flexibility for serving.
These beans meet both of those criteria, with the additional benefit of offering a unique twist on classic baked beans. The honey flavor comes through loud and clear in this dish, making it immediately obvious that you are dealing with something just a little bit different. Like all good bean dishes, these cook long and slow and need very little help from the chef.
The beans cook in a honey-flavored broth with onion and a smoked ham hock (or bacon) until they are tender. Then the beans are removed, the ham hock is chopped, and the broth is reduced until it is thick and syrupy. Everything is tossed together and can sit, gently warming, on the stove until the rest of dinner is ready. It’s the perfect recipe for a busy Thanksgiving meal.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 pound dried pinto beans
2 medium onions, diced
1 smoked ham hock (or 8 ounces bacon, diced)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbls ground ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Rinse the beans. Combine them with 10 cups of water in a large, oven-proof pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
Drain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid. Place the bean along with the onion, garlic, and ham hock (or bacon) back in the pot. Stir the honey, syrup, ginger, mustard, salt, and pepper into the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid over the beans, cover, and place in a 300 degree F oven. Cook until the beans are fully tender, about 2.5 hours. If cooking with a ham hock, remove the skin and bone and chop the meat.
At this point, you could separate the liquid from the solids refrigerate them both overnight. About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, boil the liquid over medium-high heat until it is reduced by about 2/3. Once the broth is thickened, fold the beans, onion, and ham hock (or bacon) into the liquid. Keep warm on the stove top until ready to serve.
Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.