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Ozark Commons

Food and Friendship

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I recently had occasion to remember a friend who died unexpectedly last August in the best possible way:
with music, camaraderie and, of course, food. Sarah loved food.
Everything about the memorial celebration was perfect, from being greeted by the hand-painted wisdom,
"Don't postpone joy" -- a very Sarah saying -- to the stories and music and, especially, the food.
There was a candied walnut salad that I can see myself trying to replicate for the rest of my days. If any
readers happen to know the origin of that salad and its perfectly candied walnuts, I would not complain if
an email with the recipe landed in my inbox. Nope, not at all. That salad actually reminded me of something Sarah would have -- and may possibly have -- made for a past potluck.
I am honestly not sure how we became friends, but I feel confident it had to do with either food or gardening, and quite possibly both. My earliest memories of her all blend together in a hodgepodge of outdoor parties, gardens, potlucks and Ala Carte, a restaurant that was once on Court Square in West Plains and we both frequented.
Sarah had a blog, "Moonmooring," a collection of musings about living in the Ozarks, memories, travels, gardening and, of course, food. She posted recipes that I still go back and find myself searching for and find myself getting lost among her other words in the process.
At her memorial, her surviving partner had put some of Sarah's things out on tables for friends to take and remember her by: collectibles, jars made with her ashes, seeds, and my personal favorite, bundles of recipe cards, mainly from her kitchen and her mother's.
I was flipping through, seeing bundles labeled "sweet," "savory," "meats." As soon as I uttered the words, "I wish there was a 'grab bag' bundle," I noticed there was a collection of recipes I had skipped right over. It was upside down, backwards, and right at the very front of the the box, very obviously hiding in plain sight.
I picked it up to turn it the right way, and the tag on it said, "Grab Bag," and the very first recipe was for rum baked beans. I've recently discovered that I actually do like baked beans, so that put a smirk on my face and a chuckle in my heart. And when I got home, I found lots of other recipes that elated me and a few that made me laugh -- like an old family fruitcake recipe that I now must try.
Sarah was a fan of fruitcakes. Me, not so much. But now I've got a recipe from Sarah and I would be remiss to leave it unused. I'm not sharing that recipe until we get closer to the holidays. Maybe. However, I will share the rum baked beans recipe, which I have yet to make. But I discovered my love for baked beans after cooking up a recipe in the Dutch oven just a few weeks ago, so I expect I'll give these a try, using the Dutch oven for the whole process rather than a casserole. A tip I learned after my first time trying that method: Monitor the beans closely, it may be necessary to add more liquid after a time.
RUM LACED BEAN BAKE
From the collection of Sarah Denton
1 pound dried navy beans
2 whole cloves
1 small onion
1/2 lean salt pork
1 small bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 pound smoke ham, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 cup light rum
Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water 2 inches above the beans and soak
overnight. Drain them well.
Insert cloves in small onion and add it with salt pork, bay leaf and salt to the beans. Cover with water 3
inches above beans, cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an hour or until beans are tender. Drain beans, reserving liquid.
Add enough water to the bean liquid to make 2 1/4 cups and set aside. Discard onion, cloves and bay leaf
from the beans. Remove salt pork, dice and set aside.
Layer half the beans in a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Combine salt pork with chopped onion, ham and garlic;
spoon over beans. Top with remaining beans.
Combine reserved bean liquid and dry mustard, stirring well, and pour over beans. Bake at 350 for an
hour. Pour rum over the top and bake an additional 45 minutes.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
To share recipes or ask for tips, email Abby at ozarkscommons@gmail.com.

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