Mike Mills, barbecue big name, shares his sacred grill-centric recipes in Praise the Lard.
These are not your average baked beans. Using four different varieties and scratch-cooking them from dried makes for a deliciously complex combination of flavors and textures, while a mix of savory spices, brown sugar, and honey adds tang and sweetness. Bear in mind that the dried beans will need time to soak. And be selective about what you buy: Take a pass on bagged beans that contain a lot of shriveled or broken bits, and consider giving specialty beans a try. We’ve found there really is a difference when you use quality beans straight from a grower, such as Rancho Gordo.
The recipe calls for a ham hock or bacon, but you can season this dish with all kinds of leftover cooked meat—strips of bacon, bits of fatty brisket, pulled pork, or a few cooked ribs. Finally, if you want a smaller yield, you can freeze half the batch before baking. Leftovers also freeze well.
- Combine the beans in a large colander and rinse well, picking through and discarding any debris as well as broken, darkened, or otherwise old-looking beans. Transfer the beans to a stockpot and add enough cold water to cover by several inches. Skim off and discard any floating beans.
- Transfer the pot to the refrigerator and soak the beans for 4 to 8 hours, depending on how fresh they are.
- Drain and rinse the beans. Rinse out the pot. Return the beans to the pot and add the ham hock and enough water to cover by several inches. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, skimming off any foam.
- Check the beans for tenderness: When you can bite through one of them but it’s not yet tender to the center, they are about three-quarters of the way cooked and it is time to salt them. (Salting sooner greatly prolongs cook time; salting later means the salt doesn’t penetrate the beans, so you get salty broth and bland beans.) Add the salt and 1 cup of the ketchup and simmer the beans for another 30 minutes, or until tender at the center but not soft.
- Ladle out and reserve 1½ cups of the cooking broth. Drain the beans, transfer them to a large bowl, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350°, with a rack in the center.
- In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup ketchup with the onion, bell pepper, brown sugar, honey, dry rub, prepared mustard, dry mustard, and the reserved bean broth. Add to the beans, and using your hands or a large wooden spoon, gently mix, taking care to keep the skins of the beans intact.
- Transfer the beans to a 13-x-9-inch baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour, until bubbling. Alternatively, transfer half of the beans to an 8-inch-square baking pan and bake until bubbling (about 45 minutes). Freeze the remainder in a freezer bag for up to 3 months; thaw in the refrigerator before baking.
Mike’s From-Scratch Baked Beans from PRAISE THE LARD by Mike Mills and Amy Mills. Copyright © 2017 by Mike Mills and Amy Mills. Used by permission of Rux Martin Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.