It’s been rainy for days. I like how the weather has cooled although I feel so sorry for those who have been caught in flash floods and traffic jams. Story of life in the Philippines, isn’t it? We need rain to break the suffocating heat of the summer and to keep agricultural produce from drying up before they can be harvested. But when the rain comes, we get floods and landslides, and traffic jams that slow down, if not actually prevent, agricultural produce from being transported, pronto, from the farms to the markets.
Anyway, the cool weather justifies a hearty stew to keep the body warm and the kitchen smelling fantastic. This pork and beans recipe is circa 2007, am reposting it to acknowledge the blog troll who originally called himself “Tornado” but keeps changing his name and e-mail address after I blacklisted him. He is so upset about how we love pork so I hope he chokes in the glorious porkiness of this post.
The ‘pork and beans’ I grew up with came straight from the can. We only bought one brand — Hunt’s. My brother and I used to say how apt the name ‘pork and beans’ was — one piece of fatty pork and lots of beans. Much later, I would learn to remedy that by adding cubes of pork belly to the contents of the can. It’s not even always pork. In fairness to Hunt’s pork and beans, it is a great addition to sausages. But there is only so much that you can do with canned products because everything has been pre-cooked for you. These days, I like cooking my own pork and beans using dried beans.
It’s not as hard nor as energy-consuming as you think. Soaked overnight, the beans only need an hour and a half to cook and that’s the exact length of time it takes to simmer the pork hock to tenderness. Pork hock? Yes, pork hock — pata ng baboy. The bones flavor the sauce wonderfully; the tendons as they melt make the sauce thick and sticky.
- a kilo of sliced pork hock (pata), with rinds
- a cup and a half of dried white beans
- 3-4 cups of stewed tomatoes with the liquid
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
- 3 bell peppers, cored and diced
- half a head of garlic, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- a teaspoonful of peppercorns
- 4-5 sprigs of oregano
- 5-6 tbsps. of olive oil
- Wash the beans and soak in water for at least six hours (overnight is best).
- For the stewed tomatoes, just simmer the tomatoes in water until very, very soft. Cool and peel off the skins. If fresh tomatoes are not available (hard to find good tomatoes during the rainy season), you can use canned stewed tomatoes.
- Heat the olive oil in a casserole. Lightly brown the pork in batches. Sealing the meat prevents scum from forming. Since this is a stew and you will not be able to skim off any scum that forms, I find it useful to lightly brown the meat before proceeding.
- When all the pieces of pork have been lightly browned, return them to the casserole and add all the rest of the ingredients. Pour in about a cup of water, add some salt, cover and simmer for about an hour and a half.
- A cup of water may sound too little but remember that the vegetables, especially the tomatoes, will liquefy and add more to the sauce. If the stew turns a bit dry during cooking, you can always add water little by little. But if you start with too much water, you’re likely to end up with a soup rather than a stew. So, start with a small amount of water.
- Stir once in a while to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the casserole. Add more salt if necessary. I do this twice — once after about an hour so that the pork can get a chance to absorb any additional salt and again about five minutes before cooking time is up to make sure that the sauce is not too bland.
- You can sprinkle some finely sliced onion leaves on top of your pork and beans before serving. Pork and beans stew is good with rice, crusty bread or good ol’ pan de sal.