Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cowboy Beans with Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is the twist which makes these cowboy beans special...

And the pink beans that my sister, Christine, sent us for Christmas from Rancho Gordo, a Napa, California grower of heirloom beans.  (Click here to learn about Rancho Gordo.)

fyi - Pinto beans are the traditional cowboy beans.  And ground beef is used instead of beef jerky.

Don't confuse baked beans with cowboy beans.  Even though they both use molasses and mustard, baked beans get their flavor from pork and they are sweeter and thicker than cowboy beans.

Baked beans use Great Northern (navy) beans versus pinto beans. Cowboy beans are made with beef, chili powder is added to season them, and they are soupier.

They are delicious!

This recipe came from Homesick Texan, and it makes a huge batch.   Would be good for a big BBQ or potluck.

We served them with many meals -- with ham, and later in burritos.  And as a side for baked chicken.
Cowboy Beans
(adapted from Homesick Texan)

Serves a crowd

1 pound dried pinto beans or pink pinquitis
1/2 yellow onion or 1 small whole onion
2 cloves garlic
3 ounces beef jerky, diced
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 T. molasses
2 T. prepared mustard
1 T. chili powder (we prefer Penzey's chili 9000 mix)
salt and pepper
cornstarch, if necessary --- for thickening the liquid

Pick over the beans and remove any debris or small stones. (Always a good practice to go through your beans before you start to soak or cook them.)

In a very large pot, cover the beans with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil.  Turn to low and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.  Drain the beans and rinse.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Return the beans to the pot and add the onion and garlic.  Cover with one inch of water (I added too much, so be sure to just add one inch) and bring to a boil.
Cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
Time to add the flavorings. Remove the pot, and stir in the diced beef jerky, coffee, molasses, mustard and chili powder.
Return the pot to the oven, turn up the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the beans are tender and the liquid is reduced and thickened, 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans.
Take them out of the oven.  They should be slightly soupy.  Mine were too soupy.

Our beans were fresh and cooked quickly, and I had added too much water, so I decided to remove the liquid from the pot, put it in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, then whisk in a slurry of 1 T. cornstarch dissolved in water, to thicken it, and then return it to the pot.
I did this because the liquid was where all the flavor was, even though the beans were also tasty.  I thought it better to coat each of the beans by thickening the sauce, to retain the flavor.

Add salt and pepper to taste.


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