Make my pork and beans taste good
June 17, 2008 12:08 AM   Subscribe

I need a kick arse recipe for pork and beans that's slow cooker compatible. I've tried a few found via google with lack luster results, so now I'm looking for something tried and true.

There's a school of thought that says pork should be cooked with overly sweet fruit, apricots or pineapple or whatever. I don't really belong to that school. I like all kinds of beans except black beans and green beans, and am sure that they could be added to pork to make a really nice casserole in my slow cooker (aka crockpot). But there needs to be something else in there because so far every recipe I've tried is really bland.

The only other condition is that the dish be low fat (the pork is already lean) and reasonably low in salt, otherwise I'm open to all kind of flavourings or whatever to make this taste good. Oh yeah, and it's winter here just in case that matters.
posted by shelleycat to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My great-aunt makes the best pork-n-beans ever. All I know is that she starts with traditional pork-n-beans, in the crockpot, and then she adds store-bought BBQ sauce and a diced apple. She lets it simmer forever, until guests arrive, and when she serves it her guests are orgasmic.
posted by amyms at 12:21 AM on June 17, 2008

What would you consider traditional pork-n-beans? I've heard the phrase before and the taste pairing seems to make sense, but overall this isn't a dish I have a lot of experience with. So please spell everything out like I'm an idiot (which I pretty much am when it comes to cooking).
posted by shelleycat at 12:28 AM on June 17, 2008

What would you consider traditional pork-n-beans?

Sorry, I don't know what the exact recipe is for traditional pork-n-beans, but I think my great-aunt soaked her beans overnight, then put them in the crockpiot with panchetta (but you could use bacon instead), onion, mustard and the store-bought BBQ sauce. Her "secret ingredient" was definitely the diced apple, though, so I hope that helps.
posted by amyms at 12:40 AM on June 17, 2008

*change all of my past-tense verbs to present-tense, yikes!*
posted by amyms at 12:41 AM on June 17, 2008

My grandma would do a really good navy bean ham bone soup. Which I think was really just the beans, the leftover ham, the ham bone, and salt. The part of this that might help you out is that there is a lot of flavor in the ham bones flavor that just might help your pork in beans.
posted by magikker at 1:06 AM on June 17, 2008

Not sure where you are, but Honey Baked Ham will sell you just the ham bone. At least they used to. You'll probably get about a pound of meat off the bone too. If you don't have one in your area you can also use a smoked ham hock, which most grocery stores will have. Just throw it in with the rest of your ingredients in the slow cooker. It'll make a big difference.
posted by Atom12 at 1:32 AM on June 17, 2008

In the Deep South, Pork and Beans does not contain much pork - in fact, the pork in the can is a cube of pork fat. The bacon and pork fat is major instrument in the total flavor though. I wouldn't call it low fat either.

Here is my family's Pork and Beans recipe:

2 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons of ketchup
2 tablespoons of yellow mustard
1- Van Camp's (or equivalent) Pork and Beans (15 oz)
3/4 cup of brown sugar
(This serves four people)

In a large skillet on medium high heat, fry up the bacon and stir in ketchup and mustard. Reduce heat to low setting and add can(s) of beans and brown sugar. Simmer for at least twenty minutes (the longer the better).

(I don't know how well this can translate to a crock pot, because I've never tried to fry up bacon in one.)
posted by cinemafiend at 5:54 AM on June 17, 2008

We play our pork-n-beans by ear.

Most of the actual pork flavoring comes from a smoked ham hock, which we cook with our actual meat (we use pork butt when we can find it) in the crock pot with a little vinegar, worcestershire sauce, water to cover, a whole bunch of onions, celery, bay leaves, carrots, and tons of garlic. Also salt and pepper. We leave that for 4-5 hours on low or 7-8 hours on high.

Then I discard all the mushy vegetables - they were only there to season the broth - break up the meat, and add the canned beans. Cook for another hour or two. (If using pre-soaked dried beans, double the time). Season to taste - for me this means adding in diced ham, since you can't really eat the meat from a smocked hock. You can add sauteed onions and bell peppers too.

You might want to google "Hoppin' John" recipes.

And keep in mind that crockpotted lean pork = dry pork. It's really the fat that keeps meat tender. But if you're ok with that, crock on! (oh yeah you could also just sautee your meat and add it later with the ham, relying on the ham hock to do the flavoring for you beforehand. That would keep it moister.)
posted by GardenGal at 6:10 AM on June 17, 2008

By "traditional" pork and beans, people often mean a flavor and texture similar to what comes out of a can of pork and beans. Usually kind of sweet and tomato-y, beans cooked very soft. It's often served much sweeter than I prefer, but sometimes a place (especially a bbq joint) will serve a less sweet, more spicy version that is really good.

But if you run a couple of google searches for pork and beans recipes (or look in some cookbooks if you are an old-fashioned person -- and especially if you have access to older cookbooks, you may find some pretty good recipes for this), you'll see that it can mean cooking beans with a bit of salt pork (or ham hock or bacon or whatever) for flavor, or cooking beans with a big hunk of pork. Same name, very different results. When I was a kid my mother would cook up beans with ham hocks, and then late in the process she would add cut up hot dogs, which I can remember liking a lot. I see something similar being sold in a can as "beanie weenies," I think.

Brazilian feijoada is a similar dish, much more flavorful than the usual American dish. It can be made more simply than most recipes you find online suggest (they are usually for very fancy special occasion cooking), by using just one or two forms of meat but keeping the spices and flavorings. Usually made with something more like a black bean, but the culinary police will not come to your door if you use a different bean you like better.

I've also been served really good bean & pork dishes by Italian and French cooks, so looking at cookbooks from those countries might give you some ideas.

The point being, pork and beans is a really traditional combination; the flavorings can be sweet or spicy, tomato or not, always onion, bay leaves, cilantro is a possibility, etc.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on June 17, 2008

Oops, just saw that you are not in the US, so you may not have convenient cans of pork and beans for comparison, much less culinary delights like beanie weenies. The taste of the commercial stuff is honestly not all that different from the sweet-with-a-hint-of-spice flavor of something like Watties tomato sauce (or probably their cans of baked beans, but I've never had those so can't say with certainty). Homemade is a thousand times better, but most people have only eaten the stuff from a can.

Another direction to search for recipes online is to use search terms like "baked beans pork" which will get you more of those traditional American recipes.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on June 17, 2008

I'd never thought of using a ham hock as part of it but can see how that would add a lot of what I'm missing. The pork itself seems to cook up OK in there, not too dry and with decent flavour, but so far everything else has been bland. So I'm going to try Garden Gal's version of making a tasty broth as a casserole base first, then when I get it working I'll try out other flavours everyone has mentioned (I can see how barbeque sauce and an apple would work for example). This has certainly given me lots of ideas, so thanks!

And as an aside, yeah, we don't have tinned pork and beans here. But assuming it's like other tinned food we do have (baked beans with meatballs for example) I'm not all that worried. Pre-prepared canned food tends to be overly salted and artificially flavoured and isn't really the style of cooking I'm going for here.
posted by shelleycat at 10:07 PM on June 17, 2008

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