02 January 2012

Dark Days: An Oven Warmed Home

Happy New Year! I keep wondering if I'll back out of the Dark Days Challenge, even though it's still just the beginning. It's funny that at solstice, we celebrate the days gradually becoming brighter once again, but in fact it's these next few months that will be the toughest to get through in terms of cold, and anticipation for the growing season that is still a ways off. I thought about that, and then I read this recent recap post by the East group on Not Dabbling In Normal and realized that coming up with blog posts is a struggle for many of the folks taking part in this challenge. So maybe I'll keep posting. One post at a time. Maybe it will help me to better appreciate January-March.

This recipe on Food52 for Boston Baked Beans is really good, I made it last summer. Then a couple of weeks ago, I saw this recipe for Maple Baked Beans on the Serious Eats site and knew it was time to make some mapley baked beans of my own. Almost completely local, and while not an entire meal, a substantial dish that is somewhat of a feast on its own.

I decided to use more of the methodology from the Food52 recipe, but went with some of the quantities from the Serious Eats recipe.

First I set the oven to 250F, cleaned about 2 cups of Cayuga Pure Organics Yellow Eye beans, and then chopped up a local sweet onion. I decided to keep the recipe as simple as possible and kept my ingredient list way down. As soon as all of my ingredients were prepped I melted a nice hunk of Ronnybrook butter in the pot (you need a pot or dutch/french oven that is both stove top and oven safe, as well as a lid).

Once everything was nice and hot I threw in the onions and let them cook until they started to soften a bit, then I tossed in a few spices: about a quarter teaspoon of cumin, and half teaspoon each of chili powder and Spanish paprika, plus a good helping of salt. Oh and then I poured in a HALF CUP OF DELICIOUS MAPLE SYRUP from Cronin's Maple Farm down the road (please excuse the obligatory emphasis, I'm a huge fan of maple syrup, especially maple syrup that comes from 13 minutes away). I stirred that a bit, then added the dry beans and mixed it well so that the beans were well coated. I poured in about 5 cups of water, added some slices of leftover ham from the holidays and stirred it all together. I then covered the pot and put the whole thing in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours, or until the beans became plump and tender. The last step is to take the lid off the pot, and raise the oven temperature to 400F and let the liquid boil down to whatever thickness you like.

Enjoying a cup of baked beans by the fire

If you grew up eating baked beans from a can, like I did, you'll really love fresh baked beans out of the oven, plus having the oven on for so long really helps to keep the house warm!

I'm going to cheat now and leave you with a photo of the thumbprint cookies I made last week using Marisa's recipe from Food in Jars. They're far from local, I mean, I used the fancy new Thomas Keller backed C4C gluten free flour mix, organic sugar, and almond extract from very far away, but the butter is 100% local, and the fillings consist of my blubapricot jam and my dark chocolate raspberry jam, which are both local aside from the sugar, lemon, and chocolate...yeah.

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