Gastronomi Klonowski: Four-season BBQ in a crock pot

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If last Saturday’s beautiful February sunshine and warmth are any indication, spring is on its way to Minnesota, and with any luck summer weather will follow close on its heels. I know that’s grossly optimistic, but as I sat outside getting gorgeously tan over the weekend, I was reminded of all the things that made my first summer on campus absolutely awesome last year.

Of the many things I recalled, probably my fondest memory was the 4th of July barbecue hosted by my friends Connor and Emma. Billed as a potluck, they’d told everyone to bring something to share, and the final spread was marvelous. Connor’s high school friend came all the way from St. Louis just to grill me up the best juicy lucy I’ve ever tasted to go along with my potato salad, fresh fruit and, of course, baked beans.

In my humble opinion, no summer barbecue is complete without that final dish, which may explain why I shamelessly put down at least three servings of them that day. I still don’t know who brought those beans, but I figure I at least owe them a big hug for their delicious contribution to my nourishment. Since it was mostly Mac students at the party, it may even have been someone reading this column eight months later. If it was you, I strongly encourage you to get in touch and claim said hug. Seriously, you very much deserve it. My email is at the end of the article.

On the other extreme of the weather spectrum, I also had the (mis)fortune of being in Minnesota for most of January this year through an excellent volunteer program offered by the Civic Engagement Center. As much fun as I had volunteering, there were some brutally cold days that month, including a few where the temperature never actually made it into the positive realm. Among those particularly frigid ones was Lazy Sunday, which Minnesota Vikings fans now know as the day Blair Walsh became famous for the wrong reason. The daily high was -2, so in addition to watching the big game (while huddled under a fuzzy blanket drinking hot tea) I decided to make some baked beans – summer food – as a tiny protest to the bone-chilling blizzard occurring outside my front door.

I had found this recipe a few weeks before then on Tender, which is a handy little app that I’ve become quite fond of. As the name implies, it’s very much like Tinder, except you get to swipe right and left on recipes instead of people! It’s a great inspirational tool, and I would recommend it for any amateur chef who finds themselves occasionally running out of ideas. I love this recipe in particular because it combines one of my favorite dishes with the simplicity and low maintenance of a crock pot (a topic I’ve covered a few times before in this column). It should be noted that, while the final product is delicious and the prep is easy, this recipe does take a lot of time, since you need to soak the beans before putting them into the crock pot. But if you’ve got a weekend day with not much planned, or maybe even a day with no morning classes, this makes a great side dish for whatever else you might be preparing in the evening. Enjoy your late winter barbecues, and as always, bon appetit.

Crock Pot Baked Beans

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs dried navy beans
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Rinse dry beans and place in a stove pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove heat, cover pot and soak beans for at least one hour.
  2. Drain water.
  3. Cover beans with fresh water, heat to a simmer and cook for one hour. Drain water once again, by now the beans should have gotten bigger as they absorb water from the pot.
  4. Place drained beans in crock pot and mix with all ingredients listed above (including 2 more cups of water). Cook beans until tender (8 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high) and stir well before serving.