Baked Beans

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Very few things complete a hot dog and hamburger cook out like baked beans.  Which, to me, is odd.  I mean, it’s clearly hot outside.  Nearly all the other sides are cold, like coleslaw, potato salad, lettuce based salads, sliced fruit, etc.  Drinks like beer, soda, margaritas, and mojitos are cold.  And inevitably there will be baked beans somewhere on the table spread.  The beans are baked in a supremely sugary and molasses infused sauce for a fairly long time, given their small size. How does that fit with coleslaw and potato salad?  It’s like “which of these things do not belong here”.  Yet, it does.  And great beans can be sublime.  Sweet, smokey, salty all in one bite. Try to top that potato salad!!

Boston Baked Beans are the quintessential historical bean dish.  The beans used for this dish were indigenous to the North American and transported to the “old world” in the 16th century. French Cassoulet was developed quickly there after.   In the colonies, the beans were cooked with salt pork, molasses, sugar and water.  The beans were baked for many hours in an earthen pot. “Beantown” (aka Boston) was aptly named due to the popularity of “Boston Baked Beans”.

Now?  Pop open a can and warm it up in a sauce pan.  Done.  “Baked beans”.    And why not?  Who wants to have a hot oven going for hours during the summer?   Who wants to soak beans for hours on end (if you can remember to, I forget that step and have to do the “quick soak”)? I care!!

There are many variations of doctored canned baked beans.  But, no matter how much you doctor a recipe for baked beans, the earthiness seems to get lost to a wan can taste.  I think it has something to do with the sauce in the beans.  It lacks spice.  Oomph.  Body.  My mom has a recipe that she got from somewhere called “Braggin’ Baked Beans”.  This recipe is the best of the doctored bean recipes I have tasted. I’ve tried making traditional baked beans. No one really likes those anymore. I’ve tried and tried. So, I decided to do a hybrid. My recipe combines historical ingredients with decidedly newer ingredients.  I wanted to add spice to the sweetness.  I wanted bold flavors in what could otherwise be a blandish dish. Also, I try to avoid BPA and bean cans and baked bean cans can contain a lining that uses BPA. BPA is a chemical that is suspected of causing hormone disruption in humans. I have two small humans and don’t want their hormones disrupted at all. By substituting plain beans for baked beans, I can use beans from manufacturers that avoid BPA.

Baked Beans

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound chorizo sausage, removed from its casing (or any other hot pork sausage)
1 large Vidalia Onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 cans of navy beans, rinsed and drained (about 15-16 ounces, can sizes tend to vary)
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (about 15-16 ounces, can sizes can vary)
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup course grained mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper
4 thick slab slices of bacon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven (I used my handy 5 quart) over medium heat. Cook the sausage, onion, and jalapeño pepper, until the sausage is cooked through. If there is a lot of liquid, drain. If not, add the beans, ketchup, molasses, mustard, chili powder, and brown sugar. Stir until well combined. Adjust seasonings, as needed, with salt and pepper. Place bacon on top. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered until desired thickness (30 minutes or so). As you can see above, I like a really thick sauce, you can certainly leave it thinner with no loss of taste.

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