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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New and Improved Homemade Baked Beans

We moved last October back to my hometown.  I grew up in a relatively small suburb, which would lead one to imagine I would know tons of people here.  And I kinda do.  But a lot of my friends moved away.  So we really mostly only hang out with one set of friends here in town.  But friends of theirs, who have a daughter our daughter's age, invited us for a cookout on Memorial Day.  And since I do want my daughter to have lots of friends whose parents I know and therefore will let the kids go over and come over, we went.  It was a bring-something type of cookout, and I was told to bring something easy, so I did baked beans.

In the past, I have always dumped them in the crockpot and they turned out pretty good, but I have been in a really hands-on cooking mood, so this time I only transported them in a crockpot already cooked.  They were pretty darn good if I do say so myself, the baby ate them until he made himself sick.

New and Improved Baked Beans
1 bag small kidney beans
1 medium vidalia onion
1 smoked turkey wing
3 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 can tomato paste 
3/4 c. white vinegar
1 tsp. powdered garlic
1/4 tsp. cumin

Soak beans overnight.  If you don't have time, you can follow the quick soak directions on your bag of beans.  But they never really turn out as good.  A true soak will also help reduce their gas-causing abilities (just something to think about.)  Anyway, once you soak them, drain them and rinse them.  Put the beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover them.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes.  Throw in the smoked turkey wing (it can still be frozen at this point.) Reduce heat and cover.  You will be cooking these for about an hour and half.  It's a good idea to check periodically and be sure you're not running out of water and nothing is sticking.

Meanwhile, pull out a large skillet.  Turn your heat on medium-low, and once the skillet is hot, melt the butter.  Slice your Vidalia onion thinly and add to the butter.  Cook on low, stirring regularly.  Vidalia onions are sweet, if you don't have that available, sub another kind of sweet onion.  After cooking the onion for about five minutes, throw in the fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.  Dump the brown sugar on top of that.  Keep cooking and stirring, you are wanting to melt that sugar.  Once it is mostly melted, add the sherry vinegar. The idea here is to bring out the sweetness of the onions.  Cook for another 2 minutes or so and add the cayenne pepper and the tomato paste plus 1 can of water.  At this point, the contents of your pan will look really crazy, but hang with me.  Keep cooking at medium low heat, and stir the pot regularly to help the tomato paste to dissolve.  Once you have a smooth sauce, add in the white vinegar, garlic, and cumin.  Bring everything to a sauce consistency once again.  Cook for another 2 minutes or so and turn the heat off.  At this point, your beans have been cooking for a while, check to see how they are doing.  Go ahead and pull the turkey wing out and shred it, and return it to the pot.  Once your beans are done, pour the sauce into the pot, and mix it all up.  Cook for five minutes or so.  If you're transporting them, pour them into a crockpot and keep it on "warm" or "low."

-You could do this in the crockpot.  My luck in the past has not always shown them to have the same bold flavor.
-These baked beans have a more tangy, barbeque-ey flavor than sweet.  If you want them sweeter add more brown sugar or molasses.
-Bourbon can also add sweetness, I didn't have any on  hand this time.


On another note, yesterday marked M's first real day of summer, at which point I presented her with her first week's homework.  She's starting the Lemony Snicket series, and I am having her learn how to properly define words and learn them, summarize a story, and other activities.  She is a very good reader, but I feel like she doesn't have all the analytical skills she needs. She also has requested to do 4 pages a day of a math workbook.  Tonight I'm going to the library to pick out some books on either a country or an animal for her to study.  The funny note about her summer homework is that she has to work a lot harder than during the school year.  But I think she likes it better.

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