Baked Beans

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The other day, I discovered yet another item that takes a long time to cook, and the results aren’t all that much better than the stuff you can buy in a can. Baked beans. While the 16 hours it took to make the beans were by no means labor intensive, they still took a large amount of preplanning that I figure most people won’t go through unless the payoff is huge. The beans ended up being just ok. Maybe you can tell me where I went wrong?

I soaked a pound of an heirloom bean I found called “Yellow Indian Woman” in a bowl of water for about 8 hours in the fridge. Then I drained them, and put them in a pot with more water, some ground black pepper, a bay leaf, and a whole onion, cut into eighths, and boiled them, covered, for an hour. I drained off all the remaining water, but I reserved it, and added back 12 ounces, along with a half a cup of brown sugar, a half a cup of maple syrup, a half a cup of ketchup, a tablespoon of mustard powder, a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger, salt and pepper. I also sliced up 5 thick slices of bacon, stirring half the bacon throughout, and half scattered on the top. Then I tightly lidded the pan, and put it in a slow oven (250°) for 6 hours.

I probably should have checked it towards the end, because the liquid was pretty much gone after 6 hours, and I probably could have improved the consistency by adding in some of the reserved cooking liquid from before.

They had good flavor — no complaints about that. And they made the apartment smell good. They tasted great on the side of a couple of trout fillets that I pan fried in butter, too. I just think they didn’t taste any better than a $2 tin of beans from the grocery store, is all. Ingredient list after the break.

1 pound dry beans
2 quarts water
1 large yellow onion, cut in eighths
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh pepper
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces thick-cut smoked bacon, cubed

Luisa has a recipe for “fake” baked beans that uses canned beans and takes less than an hour, and she claims her results were better than storebought, so I’ll give them a try.

1 thought on “Baked Beans

  1. Mon Frere: I respectfully beg to differ.  Beans home baked in a pit or an oven are way better than anything you can get out of a can.  One key is to add liquid periodically during slow cooking so the beans don’t dry out (make the mistake of letting the beans dry out even once during your slow cook and your potentially creamy consistency is obliterated).  Another key is to use the right cooking pot.  A pottery bean pot (like the one I found in Zanesville OH on the way back from your wedding) is wonderful because of its moisture handling properties, but a cast iron dutch oven can also works well.  Your recipe is perfect, although you could have added some garlic and additional spices if you wanted a different taste.  We New Englanders tend to like our baked beans sweet, but folks in other parts of the country (notably the south and the west) like their beans with different flavors — spicy, sometimes even sour.  We once made southern style beans with hot chili garlic sauce and goat meat in a dutch oven over an open fire … those beans were totally awesome.  Bar-B-Que western style cowboy beans can be made using the same cooking process with different spices (check out a Texas Cowboy Cooking cookbook for some ideas).  And just like Blazing Saddles, those bean recipes can be memorable.

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