Vail, Big Beers and Cooking with Beer: Grown-up Slow Cooked Pork and Beans by Ginger Johnson
If you read last week’s beer column, you know we shared a delicious recipe that I made at the Vail, Colorado based Big Beers Belgians & Barleywines Festival. We’ll keep the mouth watering going today!
I grew up with lots of green beans, both fresh and canned, yet not a whole lot of the other type of beans. Perhaps we had beans in the occasional chili or other conventional bean-inclusive recipe, though beans were fewer and farther between.
So the last few years have found me really beaning out with an emphasis on rehydrating beans, using them instead of canned. I choose to rehydrate because even organically labeled canned beans have high levels of sodium, something my body doesn’t need in excess.
Once I started rehydrating, it was all a happy down hill snowy slide for me! I save all prep and cooking liquids in my kitchen for further use and enjoyment. About the only liquids I don’t reuse in actual cooking are from prep and cleaning. I give these to my compost bucket or plants since it’s still perfectly good for those purposes.
Fast forward from my bean exploration to the aforementioned fest. Knowing the audience would be quite savvy and perhaps ahead of the average beer fest pack, I put some pressure on myself to really develop some unexpected tasty dishes. Beans provided a big part of the success.
I used Collage in this dish, a collaboration beer made by Deschutes Brewery and Hair Of The Dog Brewing. Credit is due to savvy pro Kimberly Lord Stewart for the name (Grown-up Pork & Beans) per this article she wrote about the fest and our session. I was calling it Roast Pork & Beans, though I like her turn of phrase better.
One key in cooking with beer is to think of it as an ingredient, as a flavor contribution, and as a liquid.
Grown-Up Pork & Beans
This recipe can be easily adapted for quantity, no matter the size of cooker or pot.
- Get your slow cooker out and make sure it’s clean.
- Pour your dried beans into the crock.
- Pour the beer of choice over the beans, covering completely + 1 inch liquid buffer. I poured in about 24 ounces/750 ml worth of beer then added fresh water to level.
- Turn the cooker on low. Leave it alone for 2 – 4 hours, looking in periodically.
- If your cooker is a hotter one, watch the heat closer. If it’s got a cooler element, then you may want to turn the temp to medium or high.
- After about 2 – 4 hours, stirring only once or twice to prevent sticking, turn the heat up to high for 2 – 4 hours.
- Look in every hour to make sure there’s enough liquid to cook and totally rehydrate. Add liquid as needed. I will often add various waters like vegetable or potato (from previous cooking and steamings) or even pickle brine for a bit of accent if it fits with the flavors.
- Add some medium marbled pork chops about an hour into the high cycle, stirring them in to cover completely.
- Add chopped onion, brown sugar or a bit of molasses, a chunk of dark unsweetened chocolate, coarse salt and cracked pepper, and chopped greens like kale, mustard or chard. Stir these in completely.
- Keep cooking the P&B until you like the flavors, at least 10 hours. An overnight low setting is a great way to really get the flavors to meld and mingle. I prefer after 24 hours of cooking.
This is a dish that gets better and better with time…until it’s gone. It’s really flexible and can be easily adapted to vegan, vegetarian, meat centric, or what have you. Have fun exbeerimenting with beer in your prep and cooking. Enjoy this recipe served with the beer you used in cooking.
The whole point today is that beans are super agile and delicious both as a cooking medium and as a featured ingredient. So is beer.
Till the next glass ~
Try This: Rehydrate a type of bean with various liquids, both overnight – cold in the fridge for a slow soak, as well as with the help of heat on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. If you use heat, be sure to go slow and steady and watch the liquid level so they don’t dry out. It’s always better to have more liquid at the end then tough under hydrated beans.