Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beans with Smoked Pork Shank

I made this dish twice, once in August and once in September. It was not planned by me. My Mom was visiting, so I was cooking for both of us. She wanted a pot of beans. She bought smoked pork shanks and dried beans of various varieties. My Mom used to make a version of this dish all the time when I was a kid. I never made this dish. It was scary and exciting. 

Growing up this dish was made with various pork products by my Mom and my Grandma Mac. They used ham hocks, salt pork, slab bacon, ham and so on. The beans varied, but they were either white beans or a medley. I prefer this to the canned pork and beans. I find those too sweet and too much fat.

First we soaked the beans overnight with a few teaspoons of ground ginger powder. This is meant to help relieve some of the build up of gas one gets from eating beans. Then once that was done, I rinsed the beans. To a slow cooker we added the beans, onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf, pork shank, garlic, basil, oregano, paprika, sage, and water. They cooked for 6 hours. The bones were removed and the meat shredded. The carrots, celery, and onions (which had be left in large chunks) was removed and put into the blender to be pureed. The puree was added back to the pot and acted as a thickener. 

The dish had the earthiness of the beans and carrots with the saltiness and smokiness of the pork. The herbaceousness of the onions, celery, and various other herbs added to the symphony of flavor. It brought back memories of sitting at the old table in the kitchen of my childhood home, a safe place where we ate this comforting warming dish. There is not set recipe to this dish, it is a bit of an improvisational dish.

I have made this dish with a few variations. In February 2016 and March 2016 I made this with salted ham hock. In March 2016, I added tomatoes with green chiles. In April 2016, I used a smoked turkey wing. I am not a fan of the ham hock, smoked or salted. The tomatoes with or without green chiles gave it a good flavor. I really enjoyed the smoked turkey. If anything I would make the dish again with smoked pork or turkey. They infuse the dish with a smoky flavor that I like. They also have more meat on them. 

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