Labor Day is around the corner. Time for some of those last of the season summer parties. And what’s a summer party without baked beans?
I have to admit, I never made baked beans from scratch before. It was so easy just to open a can and warm it up. But like anything else, when you make something from scratch you control the ingredients, especially the important ones like sugars and salt. Next time you’re in the grocery store pick up a can of baked beans and read the ingredients. You’ll see things like water, sugar, some sort of thickener, salt, acetic acid, citric acid, natural flavors… (what the heck are natural flavors anyway)? And if you look carefully, chances are the salt content is simply off the charts. So anytime you can make something homemade it’s just so much better.
I have to admit I was surprised at how easy these were to make and I controlled what went in them.
So let’s talk about homemade baked beans…
Lesson Learned 1 – Use thick cut bacon in this recipe: Since the bacon gets cooked a lot in this recipe (once on the stove and then again in the oven) I recommend a thick cut bacon especially if you want it to be clearly visible in the beans. I found a package of bacon pieces at Trader Joes and it was perfect for this recipe. The pieces were all from thick cuts and slabs and there were some pieces that were almost all pork and no fat. I used probably the equivalent of 3-4 slices of bacon in this recipe and it turned out great.
Lesson Learned 2 – Drain and wash one of the cans of beans: Beans in a can are packed in a lot of salt and your baked beans will wind up too salty if you put the liquid in from both cans. It’s best to drain one of the cans of beans and rinse them with water before you add them to everything else.
Lesson Learned 3 – You can choose from a wide variety of beans: I used navy beans in my recipe but you can use Great Northern, cannelloni or white beans as well. Just remember to drain and rinse one can of them.
Lesson Learned 4 – Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients: These days when I make something I study several recipes and more often than not concoct a version of my own that I will like. For example, most recipes I found suggested using dark brown sugar, which is really just light brown sugar with added molasses. I didn’t have dark brown sugar but I had light brown sugar and I had molasses. I used that and I think the flavor was richer because of the purity of the ingredients. I also added some liquid smoke to give the beans that bar-b-que smell and flavor. It worked out beautifully.
After I made this recipe I thought I would probably not post it on this site as I wondered who would get excited about something as mundane as baked beans. Well, I posted a picture of them on Facebook and got so much feedback that I felt an obligation to post the recipe. And that’s so me. Sometimes the recipes I think will get the least attention get the most. I hope you enjoy this one!
HOMEMADE BAKED BEANS...
4 slices thick cut bacon in large chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 15 ounce cans of navy beans
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 Tbs. dark molasses
1 Tbs. dijon mustard
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce (can add more to taste)
A couple of dashes of liquid smoke (be careful it is potent)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the bacon pieces in a large high edged skillet and cook until the bacon is slightly crisped. Add the onions and cooked until slightly caramelized. Add one can of beans with the liquid. Drain and rinse the other can of beans and add to the mixture.
Add the ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, vinegar, worcesterhsire sauce and liquid smoke. Stir until completely combined and simmer for a couple of minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the mixture to a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered until thick and bubbly, approximately 50 -60 minutes. Serve warm.