You never really associate baked beans with the Caribbean, but it was a norm in our home and the more I speak to others around the Caribbean I’m finding out that it’s not that uncommon. Unfortunately, it was the stuff from a can… which mom did wonders with, by adding other local ingredients to add additional flavor and to help stretch 1 can (say ‘tin’ in the Caribbean) for a family of 6 (actually I don’t think dad ate it, since he didn’t fancy ‘sweet’ food’). This recipe is my rendition of baked beans Caribbean style – from scratch!
2 cups white pea beans (aka navy beans)
3/4 lb salted pig tails (cut into pieces and prepared)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups water
3 cup chicken stock
1 large sweet onion
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
8-10 allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Note: To help with cooking time you can soak the beans overnight. In this case I didn’t and it took very long to cook.. but I think that’s the idea with such recipes – low and slow.
Prepare your salted pig tails (cut into 1 inch pieces, boil in water and drain) If you don’t know how it’s done, CLICK HERE to watch a demo video. Basically you’re doing this to help remove most of the salt the pig tails are cured in and to help tenderize the meat. TIP – You may want to ask your butcher to cut the pig tails into small pieces for you or you can ruin your everyday kitchen knife.
In a heavy pot on a low flame, add the pieces of prepared pig tails and onions and cook for 3-5 minutes. The fat from the pig tails will render enough grease to soften and fry the onions. As it cooks, go in with the all-spice berries, nutmeg and scotch bonnet pepper. Do not add any of the seeds of the scotch bonnet or the white membrane surrounding the seeds unless you want that raw heat. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling such hot peppers.
It’s time to add the washed beans to the pot, then the other ingredients. Raise the heat and bring it to a boil.
As it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover and let it go for 3.5 to 4 hours (until tender). Remember to give it a stir ever so often. You can certainly make this in a slow cooker or in the oven in an oven proof dish (covered). I guess the original way of making this is in the oven, thus baked beans.
You will notice that I didn’t add any salt in the ingredient list. The residual salt from the salted pig tails and the ton of sodium in the chicken stock was enough to properly season this baked beans. However, I encourage you to taste it near the end and adjust it to your own liking.
If for some reason (remember as it cools it will thicken up) you find that it’s not as thick as you’d like for it to be, you can always use the back of your spoon to crush some of the beans.
Remember to remove the all-spice berries (they will double in size as they cook) before serving. If pork is not your thing, you can also use salted beef with great success. I assure you that once you’ve had a bowl of this Caribbean style baked beans you’ll never reach for the canned stuff again. Prove me wrong!