This is a great dish to use up leftover bits of cured or smoked pork, any pork bones you have lying around, and definitely a trotter if you have one. Lots of different versions of baked beans on the internet. My version is loosely based on an Alton Brown recipe (Once and Future Beans) but I cut back on the sugar and spice, and add in some extra savory flavors. And a trotter.
I had some bacon ends and about 1/2 lb of uncooked ham from my last curing projects, so I used those. You could use 1/2 lb or more of uncooked bacon, leaving the rind on if you have it. If you don't have the rind, definitely try to throw in a split trotter to add that collagen silkiness.
Soak 1 lb of beans overnight in a lot of cold water. Navy or Great Northern work well. In the morning, rinse them well, cover them by 2" with fresh water, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour until the beans are tender. Reserve the cooking liquid.
I sauteed my chopped ham and bacon with 1 diced onion and 1 minced jalapeno in a braising dish. I mostly seeded my jalapeno, but leave in the seeds and membranes if you really like heat. You just want to render some fat from the bacon and cook the onion enough to soften it but not brown it. Since I was using mostly ham instead of bacon, I added in some olive oil. I would have used bacon grease if I had it on hand.
Then I added in 3 Tbsp molasses, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 Tbsp ground mustard powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. If you like aromatics, you can throw in a small pinch of ground clove and ground cinnamon or a little bit of the whole spice; a little goes a long way. Be careful of adding in salt right now....I usually wait until later so that I can gauge how much saltiness the bacon and ham are going to add.
Add in the cooked beans and enough of the cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Add in the split trotter if you have it.
Bake tightly covered at 275 deg F for 3-4 hours or so until the trotter is fully cooked and everything is coming away from the bone. I usually start it at 325 deg until I get a good simmer going, then lower the heat to 275 deg.
Pull out the trotter and return the covered dish to the oven. When the trotter has cooled a little, strip everything off the bones and dice it finely. I mean everything: skin, collagen, tendons. This what your trotter should look like after you have stripped off everything, before and after.
Stir the diced trotter bits back into the beans; remove the bay leaves. Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook another hour or so until the beans are completely tender and the sauce is thick and silky. If it seems a little liquidy then you can cook it uncovered. If it seems dry, then add in a little boiling water. If you want your beans extra smokey, then cook them uncovered in your smoker for this last hour or more.
If you used a trotter, keep in mind that the collagen from the trotter will gel the bean liquid as it cools. If you are the kind of person who likes to eat cold baked beans (meeeeee!), then you might want to leave your beans a little on the liquidy side so that they aren't too solid when cold. Otherwise you'll be able to slice them with a fork and knife. They'll soften right back up with a little heating, though.
These beans came out really delicious.....soft and creamy, smoky, porky, not too sweet, and with a spicy kick. Perfect for a chilly Sunday night.
Thanks for reading!