People around the globe enjoy baked beans. Just about every culture has their own version of a stewed or baked bean dish. Usually, the recipe involves slow cooking the beans in a special sauce with meat or fat added for flavor. Whether it is the French cassoulet, Cuban black beans, Boston Brown Beans, or Mexican Borracho beans, humans have been cooking up this pot for centuries. And, while many hotly contest the origins, or which recipe is best, we know one thing for certain; baked beans are a perfect side dish for a BBQ.
Baked beans have been part of the American diet long before America was even a country. It wasn’t even a twinkle in our founding fathers’ eyes when the Native American tribes, particularly the Iroquois, Narragansett, Penobscot and other eastern tribes were perfecting the art of baking beans. Baked beans were adopted by the British Colonials in the early 17th century, and have been an American favorite ever since. The old, traditional recipse from the indigenous peoples aren’t that much different from today’s version, except we usually use bacon or pork instead of bear or bear fat. Their method involved taking soaked native or “navy” beans, mixing them with bear fat (yes, bear fat) and maple syrup, then slow cooking them in earthen, or deer-skin pots hung over a fire.
Many cities around the world have nick names, usually associated with something in their history or geography. Most of you know that Denver is known as the “Mile High City” because it is 5,280 feet or 1 mile above sea level. Boston, MA, is known as “Bean Town”. It got its name because during the early years of our country, when Boston was the rum capital of our very young country. A by-product of rum was molasses. Molasses was the first sweetener used when baking their beans, and hence, Boston baked beans were born.
Today, baked beans come in many ways, around the country and in many places around the world. There is an infinite number of possibilities and recipes.
Beans need to be slow cooked in lots of water. However, if time is an issue, you can also boil them at a rapid boil for 3 minutes, then remove them from the heat and let them soak for at least an hour or two before preparing them. I use both methods. It really just depends on my timing and how much time I have to prepare them. I have to admit, the boiling method is not as good as the traditional soak, but it is a good substitute.
Bacony Baked Beans
I love bacon. I am one of those that believes more is more, especially when it comes to bacon. So when a recipe calls for bacon, I add more than what it calls for. You can’t go wrong with bacon, right?!
1 lb dried navy or other white beans – cook according to the directions on the package.
8-12 oz of bacon or salt pork, diced
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp dry mustard
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 cup maple syrup
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 TBSP cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 325* F or about 170* C.
Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
This time, I boiled my beans and then let them rest. Reserve the cooking water to use later.
Layer the bottom of the baking dish with the diced bacon, then add the beans on top of the bacon.
Combine all the ingredients together except the cornstarch and pour over the beans.
Pour the remaining reserved water over the beans, adding more boiling water if necessary. You need enough liquid to cover the beans completely. Gently stir everything together without upsetting the beans.
Bake uncovered for an hour. Add more water if necessary. Check every half hour for the remaining cooking time. Cook for about 3 hours. After 3 hours, adjust the seasoning if needed and mix the cornstarch with a little water or some of the liquid and add to the bean mixture.
Raise the oven temperature to 400* F or 200* C and continue to cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the beans are tender. Depending on your oven, the cooking times may vary. Bottom line, you want the beans to be nice and tender. This will make them easier to eat and to enjoy and will also help release some of their gasses. As most of us all know, beans are often called the “musical fruit”.
Enjoy these delicious baked beans with friends and family because you are going to have a lot of beans, or should I say, you are going to have a hill of beans.
Stay cool, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.