Secret Ingredient: Molasses
I have a confession to make….I sometimes get bored with food. Cooking it. Eating it. Thinking about it.
Sometimes I’m able to get out of my food rut by going out to a new restaurant and eating something new and different. A truly transcendent meal will snap me right out of a food funk. But meals like that are hard to come by. It seems that a whole lot of chefs put more creativity in the menu descriptions of their dishes than they do in actually cooking them.
So, more frequently, I’m forced to break the funk by challenging myself to try a new ingredient or a new way of using a familiar ingredient. This time, molasses won out. I’d always been a little leery of molasses–it’s so thick and black and sticky. What the heck do you do with it? Turns out, you use it to make some pretty kickass “baked” beans. I put the word “baked” in quotes because these beans don’t ever see the inside of an oven. They’re simmered in the crock pot all day, and if the smell doesn’t make you start drooling, your sniffer must be broken.
A couple of notes on this recipe: First, you’re not getting a picture. The camera battery was dead and these beans just aren’t that photogenic. They’re baked beans, not a supermodel. Second, don’t add salt. The smoked turkey legs tend to be salty enough to compensate for all the sweetnesss in the dish. Third, this makes a TON of food. We ate it the first night as a main course, grabbing up most of the turkey, with a salad and some corn bread on the side. We got about 3 more nights of side dishes out of this batch. Your mileage may vary.
Sweet and Smoky Crock Pot Baked Beans
1 package dry navy beans
2 onions, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar (doesn’t matter what kind)
1/4 cup molasses
6 whole allspice berries (or about 2 tsp ground allspice)
5 whole cloves
2 fresh bay leaves (dry would work, if you must)
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup good bourbon (optional)
2 smoked turkey legs
- Rinse and pick over the beans to remove anything obviously not a bean or that’s not a bean you really want to eat. Dump into a big pot and cover with water. Soak overnight.
- First thing in the morning, drain the soaked beans. Cover with water again, and boil for about 10 minutes. Skim the nasty stuff that rises to the top. Drain the beans at the end of the 10ish minutes.
- Add the onion to the crock pot, then pour the beans over that.
- Dissolve the molasses in about 1 cup of hot tap water. Add this to the crock pot.
- Now add everything else–the brown sugar, the spices, the worcestershire, dry mustard, and the black pepper.
- Add enough hot water to just cover the beans. Now drop in the smoked turkey legs.
- Cook on low about 10 hours, or on high for about 6 hours.
- When the beans are soft, remove the whole spices (if you can find them), and the turkey legs. Shred the turkey meat (it’ll take just your fingers) and add that back into the pot.
- Try not to eat so much you make yourself sick.