Finally, here is a full recipe, pictures and all!
BAKED NAVY BEANS WITH ELK SHORT RIBS
2.5-3 lbs short ribs - elk, buffalo or beef should all work fine
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
4 cups soaked Navy beans (approx 2 cups dry, soaked over night if possible)
2 small or 1 large onion, diced
3 -4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-4 pieces of sliced bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp. deli mustard
1/3 cup honey, brown sugar or molasses
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup fruit preserves, jam, puree or marmalade
2 cups tomato juice, or approx. 1 cup thick tomato sauce and 1 cup water
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
You'll need a large, heavy skillet or pot to brown the ribs in. You'll also need a large crockpot for slow cooking or a large covered casserole for baking this dish in the oven.
Here are the main ingredients...starting clockwise from "high noon" we have a half-pint jar of Sunshine Marmalade, a quart jar of home-canned tomato juice, two small onions and a small head of garlic, a tub with some home-cured bacon made from local pork belly, a 2.5 lb package of elk short ribs, and a four-cup measuring cup with soaked navy beans.
First, rinse the short ribs, pat them dry, and brown them in 1 Tbsp. oil in a large, heavy skillet. Get them good and brown and even a little crispy around the edges. This adds flavor and also helps cook out a bit of the extra grease. Don't worry, there's still plenty of flavor left. And don't forget that you're going to add some chopped bacon to the dish as well, so a little less grease here is a good thing.
To keep yourself occupied while the ribs are browning, you can start dicing up the onion, garlic and bacon. Don't worry too much about dicing the garlic super fine - chunky is good enough - you just don't want to spoon up some beans and get a whole clove of garlic in that one bite. Well, maybe you do. But, I really don't - I'd rather spread all that yummy garlic around a bit.
Pour the soaked beans into the bottom of the pot. Sure, they'll float around after you add all the liquids, but I like starting them off in a neat pile in the bottom of the crockpot anyway.
Toss the diced onions, garlic and bacon in on top of the beans. Mmmmmm! In case you were wondering, so far everything in the pot is local. It's already starting to smell good - and we don't have everything in it yet!
Measure out the mustard, and put that in, too. This is some home-made mustard I put together a week or so ago. It's yellow mustard flour and some whole brown mustard seeds, with some vinegar, water and a bit of salt. You can use whatever mustard you like best, or whatever you have in your fridge. I bought the makings from Penzey's, so this isn't really local. Maybe that will change some day - I know mustard should grow well here.
Measure out the honey, and put that in. You could add more honey if you like, but I didn't want the beans to be overly sweet. Just a tiny bit of sweet with the savory onion and the tangy tomato is what I'm after here.
See! Local honey! Believe it or not, I got it at Sam's. What you can't see in this picture is that the honey was so thick I had to literally squeeeeeeze it out of the jug like toothpaste. It had been sitting in our storage room. I guess it is a little cool in there right now.
Pour 1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce in over it all. You could probably use soy sauce if you don't have any Worcestershire, but I think you'll be missing some of the flavor. Nope, Worcestershire isn't local. But it's good stuff!
Pour or spoon 8 ounces of your favorite fruit jam, marmalade or puree into the pot. I'm using something I call Sunshine Marmalade. It's an apricot jam that's been pepped up with some citrus zest and finely diced fresh ginger. We like it much better than plain apricot jam, which often seems to taste a bit bland to me. This was made from some really lovely home-grown apricots our next door neighbors gave us last year.
By now the ribs should be good and browned on both sides (you did remember to flip them every few minutes, didn't you?) Drain the browned ribs a bit, and plop them right on top of all the other stuff you just put in the crock. Sprinkle the salt in now.
Pour the tomato juice and water over everything, and plug the crockpot in and cook for 10-12 hours on low, or put it all into a large covered dish in the oven at 300-325 degrees for about 4-5 hours. You want it to cook nice and slow so the beans can soak up all that good flavor floating around and the ribs can become falling-off-the-bone tender. Keep an eye on the liquid levels so the beans don't dry out.
Here's the final product! The rib meat was falling off the bones, and the beans came out savory and just a little sweet. I added a bit of Tabasco Chipotle sauce towards the end - just a few shakes - and I think it made the beans a lot more flavorful. I think one change I'll make next time is to marinade the elk ribs overnight - they were good and tender and tasty, but not quite as flavorful as I'd like. I think a nice garlicky wine marinade, with perhaps a bit of mustard added, would be just the ticket.