Raise your hands if you don’t like baked beans. Nobody? I thought so.
This baked bean recipe has it all. It shines with the best beans you can buy but it is also great with plain Jane canned beans. (I used Rancho Gordo ayocote dry beans. Rancho Gordo Beans Site)It can be as sweet as you want it to be. Piquant savory flavors (tomato, garlic, onion) complement the sweet ingredients (molasses, apples, maple syrup). Did I mention that it incorporates two generous pours of bourbon whiskey–one pour for the beans and one for the cook?
As a testimony to the sheer goodness of baked beans, just about everyone claims a part in the creation of the dish. French cooks say American baked beans take their inspiration from French cassoulet. The Canadians say the dish is a Quebecois specialty. Historians say the Penebscot Indians, who baked their beans buried in hot ash in large holes in the ground, probably introduced baked beans to loggers working in the forests of Maine. Boston says the beans are theirs. Heinz started putting them in cans in 1901 and created a wildly-successful product.
Baked beans have infiltrated the cuisines of some pretty exotic places, too. I remember ordering a breakfast of baked beans on toast at the ground floor cafe in Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel. It turns out the beans were the hotel’s culinary nod to Britain’s colonial role in the country. Baked beans were, after all, a part of the full English breakfast tradition–eggs, grilled tomato, hash browns, bacon, sausages, black pudding and baked beans. At the Taj, though, they were served with a side of mango chutney.
Whatever their provenance, baked beans, properly prepared, are a delicious addition to any menu.
This recipe is a meal in a bowl to be savoured on a cold winter evening, but the opportunities to pair it with other dishes are endless. (I served mine with a simple mayonnaise coleslaw spiced with caraway seeds.)
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 2 large onions ( 1 sliced and 1 quartered)
- 1 to 2 large apples (peeled and quartered)
- 1/4 C. bourbon Whiskey (plus a tot for the cook)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/3 C. tomato paste
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian brand if you are veg)
- 2 T. blackstrap molasses
- 2 T apple cider vinegar
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. prepared mustard
- 1 t. smoked paprika
- 1 t. liquid smoke (optional--I used it)
- 1/4 to 1/2 C. maple syrup
- 28 oz. great northern beans (drained and rinsed or equivalent amount of freshly cooked dried beans)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and or red onion
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Saute one sliced onion in oil in a skillet set over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes (until caramelized). Watch the skillet carefully and stir often. You want the onions to caramelize not burn. Stop the cooking as soon as your onions are the color you want them to be. When onions are caramelized, add minced garlic and sauté for about one minute. Add the whiskey and cook for about 4 minutes (until most of the liquid has cooked off). Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, prepared mustard, paprika and liquid smoke. Stir until all ingredients are well-mixed. Stir in maple syrup and taste. Add more maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter taste.
- Put the onion mixture into an oven-safe Dutch oven. Add the canned beans and the maple-syrup mixture. Stir to combine. (If you are using dry beans --as I did-- prepare your beans in an Instant Pot following Instant Pot directions for dried beans before adding them to the pot.)Add the quartered onion and the quartered apples to the bean pot. Stir to mix ingredients. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and bake. Check the beans occasionally, stir and add additional water if the beans are getting too dry. Bake for about an hour. Then uncover the pan and cook for 10 more minutes. The beans only get better the longer you cook them. I cooked my baked beans for several hours, checking them regularly and adding extra water as necessary.
- Remove beans from oven and let them sit for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro or red onion.
Here is a link to the original recipe from which this recipe was adapted: Best Ever Vegan Baked Beans.