Saturday, June 25, 2011

Baked Beans (Mom's Recipe Box Find #2)

One of my guilty food pleasures is a right-off-the-grill hot dog. I know, not the most gourmet of foods, or the healthiest, but everything in moderation, right? And what goes better with hot dogs than baked beans? Now you could just open a can of baked beans and plop them in a saucepan, but where's the fun in that? Make your own!

Once I decided to do just that, I found my Mom's recipe for baked beans. That poor note card has seen better days, but its hard-used appearance proves what a popular recipe it is.

I didn't have any canned white beans in the pantry, but I did have a one-pound bag of dried white beans. They take more preparation than canned beans (obviously - canned beans come out ready for use) but are worth the effort. First, dried beans are cheaper than their canned cousins, because once you soak and rehydrate them, they double in weight. (Put another way, when you buy canned beans, you are paying for water.) Second, you are avoiding any salt, preservatives, or chemicals in the canned beans, not to mention the chance of BPA in the can itself.

Anyway, I soaked the beans the night before, but they double in size, so I only used half. (You can now freeze the rehydrated beans in a Ziploc bag and thaw them when you have another recipe for them.) I used my Mom's recipe as a jumping off point, and they were just as delicious as hers were. I realized they don't need to bake in the oven and are great on the stovetop - that way you won't have to heat up your kitchen on a hot summer day to make them. These are easy, cheap to make, and will impress everyone who has them. Hearty, smoky and fantastic, these put those watery, gloopy canned baked beans to shame!

Baked Beans

  • 1/2 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight in 6 cups water (or use 2 cans of white beans, reserving some of the canning liquid)
  • 5 slices bacon, diced (obviously, vegetarians can omit this, or replace with soy bacon)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (optional, but I like the smokiness - you could also try a few dashes of liquid smoke)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  1. Drain the water from the beans you soaked. Put the beans in a pot, cover with about 4 cups of water and a lid, and cook over medium heat for about 2 hours. You don't want to cook off all the water, so check in on them every once in a while. When they're done, save about a cup of the cooking water to use in the baked beans, in case you like them a little "saucier" than I do.
  2. In a Dutch oven or very heavy-bottomed pot, fry the bacon. When it's about halfway to crunchy, add the onion. When the bacon looks done, add the beans. Turn the heat down to low and stir everything together for a few minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Give it a taste and see if you need to adjust the seasonings. It likely won't need salt, but you may like some pepper.
  4. Cover and cook on low heat for half an hour. Check the consistency - if it's too thick, add some of the bean cooking water; too thin, take the lid off and let simmer. Serve hot.
These make great leftovers (I had them for breakfast and felt sort of British.) Even better, add leftover hot dogs for a white-trash-tastic lunch.

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