Calico Beans

After the mention that I had been cooking for my office in my last post, my sister suggested that I should make that the focus of a few posts.  You see, for about two months I was responsible for feeding 40+ people three times per week on a budget of about $130/meal.  That makes my catering options pizza, party subs, or nachos and after three weeks of rotating those two options, I never wanted to see another slice of pizza again.  So, I turned to my army of crock pots and a lone electric skillet and started cooking.  You see, I’m an executive assistant who works in a warehouse that doesn’t have a stove top much less a commercial kitchen.

My first crack at makeshift office cooking was Calico Beans.  Since the name lends as much insight into the nature of this dish as Potatoes Anna or Veal Prince Orloff, I will shed some light on this pretentious moniker.  Simply put, they’re sweet BBQ beans.

Growing up, Calico Beans were something my mom would occasionally contribute to church potlucks or other such get togethers but I never remember her serving it at our dinner table.   It had always sounded like some gross bean dish that was better suited for dogs than people so I never felt slighted that it was reserved for others; on the contrary, I felt lucky.  Then many many years later after I’d already embarked on the world of parenthood,  my coworker, Chris, brought Calico Beans in to share.  I was in awe; this was the dish I had been so proud to have avoided for my first 26 years?  I may have actually slapped my forehead and bowed in contrition over the folly of youth.  Chris was gracious enough to share her recipe with me and it has become a favorite among my family and a few of the folks at work asked the same favor of me.

Like most recipes, I used Chris’s as a jumping off point but have made only very minor modifications over the years.  I tried recently to substitute soaked beans for the canned ones.  It was a spectacular failure.  It probably had something to do with the age of my beans so I’m not going to let this failure discourage me, but I will wait to try again until I can afford the time to let a recipe fall flat on its face.  That time around it was supposed to be dinner.

One last comment for you regarding serving suggestions.  Serve it with something corny.  For years I made cornbread to go along with the beans, but in recent years I’ve switched to corn chips.  Part of this has been brought on by taste and some of it by the simple fact that I usually use crock pot meals for evenings when I know I won’t have time to prepare a proper meal and making cornbread, while not overly complicated, defeats that purpose.  (Now that I’m talking about it, I kind of want some corn bread, and ladies & gentlemen, I have a pretty yummy recipe.  But let’s not get distracted…its time will come.)

Calico BeansIngredients

3 15oz cans of beans (Use whatever variety you like)
½ lb bacon
1-1 ½ lbs ground turkey
1 can baked beans – 24oz
1 medium onion – chopped
⅓ cup brown sugar (or honey)
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup water

  • Dice the bacon (while still raw) and brown it up until it’s nice and crisp.  (For perfect bacon, low and slow is they key.  Don’t rush!!! Low and slow.)
  • Brown the turkey too.  
  • Add all the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook for 5-7 hours on low.

From my little corner of the world, thanks for reading and happy eating.
Caffeter, the Milkmaid


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