Sloppy Joes aren’t supposed to be tricky, I don’t think. Surely a large part of the appeal is that they’re easy? Also, of course, once you get away from the revolting Manwich-style Sloppy Joe of my childhood, they’re pretty damn good.
I actually only recently discovered that Sloppy Joes were good, when I first tried the recipe in Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann’s Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781558322455-5) No goopy manwich, this. Just completely addictive deliciousness. So, when I came up with the idea of a bean cookbook, I wanted to create a version using beans. And without refined sugar.
The sugar issue wasn’t a big deal. I just subbed honey in for the brown sugar called for by the original recipe, which is included at the end of this post in case you’re curious. But the beans are a completely different story. This is my third attempt and, while they’re alright, I’m still not there.
One thing that did work this time is the bean. Which is huge progress. I’ll outline the history so you’ll understand.
For my first try, I used navy beans. I thought they would work well because of the size, which was large enough to be meaty but small enough to keep the sandwich feeling. Wrong. The flavor was good by the beans themselves were overwhelmingly dense and heavy. It also took forever to cook. Literally 24 hours.
For the second try, I used lentils. Again, the flavor was fine. And the lentils were fully cooked in a normal time (10 hours on low). The problem was the texture, which was unpleasantly sharp, like eating little shards of cooked clay. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh. But not as much as you might think.
This time, with the Brown Tepary bean, I was confident that I’d finally found the perfect bean. As described by Steve Sando in The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, Brown Teparies, are small, meaty beans that “are higher in protein and fiber than other beans,” drought-resistant and will grow almost anywhere. Good for the environment? Small? Meaty? Plus extra nutritional superpowers? Perfect!
Not so fast, Goldilocks. The size and texture of the Brown Tepary were indeed perfect. But the beans took far too long to cook and the final result had too liquid. Which means I’m not done yet. That said, this version is edible. But there’s no photo. I made a light box, I did! It just doesn’t work. Yet. So I’ll try again. Later.
For now, here’s the recipe, which is true to what I did today. It would be vegan except the Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies. If you’re feeling courageous and decide to try for yourself, I recommend using only 2 cups of water and adding the tomato sauce at the beginning. That’s my plan for next time.
2 c. Brown Tepary beans, brined overnight
2 ribs celery, diced
1 sm. red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1-3/4 tsp. paprika
1-3/4 tsp. chili powder
1 dried red chili, crumbled
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tb. olive oil
3 Tb. honey
1 28-oz. can tomato puree
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1. Add everything except the tomato puree and apple cider vinegar to the insert of your slow cooker. Add water to cover, put the top on the pot, and cook on high for 4 hours.
2. Add the tomato puree and vinegar. Stir and continue cooking for another 2 hours or until the beans are tender and the liquid has reduced (this took another several hours).
Serve on buns or as a topping for baked potatoes. If, like me, you have a lot of leftovers, they freeze really well. Dinner and lunches for later! Now, if you’re curious, here’s the recipe that made me realize why people eat Sloppy Joes.
Original recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 large rib celery, finely chopped1 clove garlic, ninced
One 6-oz can tomato paste
2 Tb. apple cider vinegar, or more as needed
2 Tb. brown sugar (I use honey)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder, or to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Worscestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tobasco
Dash of cayenne pepper
Hamburger buns or other soft sandwich rolls (or baked potatoes) for serving
1. Cook the beef and vegetables in a large skillet over medium high-heat, stirring, until the meat is cooked through. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on low for 6 or 7 hours. (I usually cook for 8 hours. It’s fine.)
2. Taste and add more vinegar or sugar, if desired. Serve the meat mixture spooned into the buns.