Melo Farms

It's all swine with us!


Boston Baked Beans - Melo Style

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Ok, this is why it’s hard for me to share recipes. My cooking often lacks….we’ll call it….structure. Let’s use my latest confection, Boston Baked Beans, as an example. The ingredient list looks like this

1 bag navy beans from Hampshire farms, soaked overnight and rinsed

1 pint jar homemade ketchup from Megan

8 oz. hock meat

16 oz. bacon

Some chicken stock

Some reduced to gelatin pork stock


Brown sugar

Maple sugar

It looks simple until you get into the how of the hock meat and stock. Chicken stock is simple, you grow chicken for 12 weeks, store them in your freezer like gold bars, make baked chicken, save some of the non-crispy skin and when the roasted chicken is reduced to a barebones carcass break up that carcass and cover it with filtered well water in a quart pan, don’t forget to add the skin, and cook it on low for 8 hours. Let cool and drink some of the broth because it’s January 2014 and the Polar Express or Vortex or whatever arctic Loki has brought minus 30 temps and you were just stuck up to your thighs in a snow drift and thought you were going to die with your house within sight…. Then strain the rest into a bowl so the fat can rise, solidify and be peeled off for stir frying veggies. Ok that’s how much chicken broth went into the Baked Beans.

As for the pint of homemade ketchup from Megan, that was a gift but when tomato season is upon us again I’m sure you could put in your order, she’d be grateful for the business. And Megan, if we have a really good 2014 tomato season, this goes viral and you get a TON of orders I promise to help you….unless we’re birthing, then it’s every woman for herself :>) Without Megan’s gift ketchup I’d substitute your favorite brand of organic ketchup, 16 ounces worth.

The hock meat is a result of an earlier 3 day cook fest where I combined frozen skin on shank, skinless shank and a hog foot in my huge stock pot filled with filtered well water and simmered for 12 hours more or less. Pulling the meat from the pot, cooling it and making 8 oz. packages of cooked hock meat is the first step, saving the bones for our dogs is the second and turning up the heat and cooking the broth for another 12 hours is the third. The skin and hoof will turn the stock reduction into a gelatin when cooled. Strain the reduction and fill 9x12 glass baking pans and chill. Cut the gelatin into cubes, put the cubes on trays, freeze and store the cubes for use in soups, gravy, refried beans, braised greens, nursing your friends back to health after they catch nasty bugs or whatever tickles your fancy.

The reduction gelatin at hand for this dish was the amount in a glass bowl that had not yet been ‘cubed and iced’ probably due to readying for the Arctic Pole Ice Band of Badness and I would guess it was around 10 to 16 ounces.

Organic dark brown sugar, well I just used what was left in the bag as I was too tired to walk a flight of stairs and grab another. Maybe 1/3 cup packed? And the organic maple sugar was around the same. Basically sugar to your taste. The two sugars give a balanced sweet depth and I can get away with using granulated maple sugar over liquid due to the gelatinous stock base.

Add enough water to make a thin mix because the beans will absorb some of the fluid, some will evaporate and you’d really like a tangy, gooey sauce with your baked beans if only to dress the rice or sautéed kale you’ll serve it over.

All of this should fit in that roaster pan you pulled out for Thanksgiving and haven’t stored away yet. Bake at 350 for 3 or 4 hours till the beans are soft. Check at 3 hours, or alternately when you smell that I’m going to burn and become a ruin scent, add more water if necessary. You could be really smart and cover the dish with foil, I did the almost burn and ruin route.

As I write this the process becomes clear. I have to start documenting how I make stock because this essential ingredient is not only a key to outstanding dishes but an essential component of using every bit of what we raise. Also I believe broth/stock is an elemental basic for nourishing our hard working bodies. I was raised with a mealtime prayer that contained the phrase ‘may this food strengthen and nourish us’ and I work to incorporate all the good things that we and other farmers raise to do just that.

Lastly I could commit to measuring though I know everyone always modifies the amount to their own tastes so a ‘real’ recipe would only be fiddled with anyway! And you have to trust that you can start with frozen meat, become secure in your ability to perform small pieces of cookery over several days and be willing to find your own taste palate sweet spot. So I will commit to sharing more cooking inspiration and we’ll continue to supply well raised meat. This is my Boston Baked Bean recipe. Of the moment. I may add caramelized onions next time. Fiddling already :>)

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