10 February 2012

Baked Beans - From Scratch

Baked beans are part of my heritage in two ways. They're a New England thing, and my paternal grandfather's people started out there when they stepped off the Mayflower nearly 400 years ago. And they are something my dear Aunt Sissy (who died in 2010) made regularly for family and friends.

She used a pottery bean crock, similar to this Brown 3-Quart Ceramic Baked Bean Pot. I don't have such a pot, so I just use my multipurpose CorningWare French White 2-1/2-Quart Round Casserole Dish with Glass Cover. It works great, even if it doesn't look as "authentic." And you do need a proper dish in which to bake the beans if you are actually baking your baked beans. Aunt Sissy was just about the only person I've ever known who did. Most people do a stovetop version with canned beans.

I've deviated from Aunt Sissy's recipe before by cooking the beans entirely in the oven rather than an hour on the stovetop followed by time in the oven. But the beans are every bit as good when started on the stove, so I'm going to tell you her way instead. The end result is perfect.

In the UK, baked beans are an essential element of the full English breakfast and of the comfort food favorite beans on toast. They are not baked but rather canned beans in a tomato sauce with about half the sugar of canned baked beans in the US.

Aunt Sissy's Baked Beans (more widely known as Nana's Baked Beans)

(Makes 8 servings)

1 1-pound package navy or small white beans
6 cups water
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
1/2 cup finely minced onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/4 cups ketchup (Muir Glen organic)

1 Rinse and pick over beans to remove any debris. In 3-quart saucepan, soak beans overnight (8 to 24 hours) in 2 quarts of water salted with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt.

2 Drain and rinse soaked beans, and add 6 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Drain in colander over a large bowl, reserving the liquid.

3 Cut 2 strips of bacon the diameter of your casserole; reserve for garnish. By hand or in the food processor, finely mince the remaining bacon. In skillet, cook bacon until crisp; add to beans. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of bacon fat (or add oil to make 1 tablespoon fat) and saute chopped onion until soft; add to beans.

4 Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add remaining ingredients to beans; stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into 2.5-quart lidded casserole. Add enough of the reserved liquid to cover the beans (In my CorningWare French White 2-1/2-Quart Round Casserole Dish with Glass Cover, that was 1 1/4 cups).

5 Cross 2 strips of bacon on top of the beans. Put on the lid. If you want to keep your lid clean, cover the casserole with foil before putting the lid on. Bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees.


Cranberry Morning said...

Jean, I am SO glad you posted this recipe. When I was a kid, there were a couple women in the church who could be counted on to bring REAL baked beans to the Sunday School picnics. I loved them...and haven't had them since! I am so making this dish...and will think back to Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Wallace...and of course you. ♥

TONY said...

Jean, I just noticed your baked beans from scratch post pop up in my items list. My immediate thought was, Oh no! Jean has reverted to eating out of tins.
I've just read your post.

I am going to show my ignorance now. Baked beans to me and many people in England mean a can of Heinz Baked Beans, nothing more and nothing less. ha! Ha!.
How silly is that.
I have got a pack of four cans of baked beans in my cupboard at this very moment.When I eat them I'll think of you!!!!

Your recipe sounds great. I am sure many people in England do make their own baked beans. It's just me.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Judy, thank you! I hope they are every bit as good as the beans you remember.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Tony, I could start a second blog called Eating Out of Tins! Yes, good old Heinz beans. Do you remember when the Beatles went to India and Ringo took two suitcases, one for his clothes and one for his Heinz beans!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

May surprise you to know that I'm on this bandwagon. Yeah, it's close enough to the planet of sugar and grease to get my endorsement (like wow, huh?). I actually used to make this from my mother's recipe. She cooked navy beans almost to the point where they looked premasticated, but somehow they retained dignity and integrity, i.e. no beans were harmed in the preparation of this repast. When I got hold of the recipe, it went down a few rungs of the ladder, of course. But I did add some special touches (along with mountains of brown sugar...and, um molasses). The coup de grace was one or another of my specialty mustards. Must have mustards. I parsed the genome of mustard after many ghastly experiments in which I was flustered by mustard. Just sayin’…

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sully, it does surprise me to know! And I'm with you on the mustard. I usually just start with the teaspoon of dry mustard, then throw in a spoonful of a good country Dijon, taste, then throw in some more. It always makes me happy to learn of someone making their mother's recipe.

Dori said...

This recipe sounds delicious! I haven't had baked beans in a long time :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Dori! Good to hear from you again!

teryll said...

I love that your photo of the baked beans includes a dynamite piece of silverware. Who says baked beans are "poor man's food"? LOL!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Teryll, thank you for the good laugh! Not too many people would notice that. :D

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Yumm--you always make the dishes look so good!

I am the proud owner of an old bean crock. My mother was the one who made the greatest baked beans in the crock.

I always love your touch with family history and traditions, Jean. All the more powerful at this time.

It's a perfect weekend for making a pot of beans. Better go get a new bottle of molasses, however. The last one I borrowed from my friend smoked when I opened it. Not something I've ever seen a bottle of molasses do. I don't think she had used it in a very, very long time!


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Sue! Yes, I know about those ancient jars of molasses--had one I had to put in boiling water to get the lid off, and then it looked like something you'd use on your roof or in building roads! I'll probably be making lots of recipes with molasses so I can use this jar up before it reaches that stage.

Swedish Mike said...


Baked beans are always good, even better if you make them yourself.

These looks really good so I'm going to have to try your recipe to see if there's anything I want to incorporate with my one. ;)

'My' recipe goes a bit more towards the BBQ style beans with some maple syrup, chillies and garlic and more thrown in.

// Mike

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Mike! Hope you like them. Yes, I also have a barbecued bean recipe, something a bit spicier to go with, well, barbecued foods.

Charles said...

Hi Jean - what a beautiful sounding recipe, and they look just fabulous! I've been meaning to make my own baked beans from scratch for a long time. I bet this is a real satisfying dish!

On a side note, I love to laugh at my British co-workers here... there's an online British grocery store which ships to France and they're so happy to be able to buy Heinz baked beans, at extortionate prices... around €3 a tin. I make my own cheat version by buy a can of white haricot beans for about €0.40, draining them of *almost* all the liquid, but not quite, adding a good squirt of ketchup and heating through/stirring on the stove - it's the exact same thing!!!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Charles! Boy, those Brits must really be hooked on their Heinz beans to pay those prices! What you did--adding ketchup to the plain canned beans--is called "doctoring a can of beans" here.

Abigail Rogers said...

Mmmm...sounds like winter food to me!

I've wanted to try real British beans for a long time, and wondered if there was any canned American equivalent. Have you ever come across a brand that was similar to the UK kind?

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Abby, I'm pretty careful about the canned (tinned) products I use. Besides looking for organic, one needs to look for BPA-free cans. Eden Foods has been using BPA-free cans for years, so I don't know why it's taking other companies so long. I would suggest you try a can of Eden Organic navy beans with a splash of Muir Glen Organic ketchup to replicate the less sweet UK canned baked beans.

Abigail Rogers said...

Thanks, Jean! I might just try that :)

Unknown said...

To me, there are not very many things that can beat baked beans from scratch! My grandmother used to make them this way.. or at least very similar to this. YUM! Thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jenn! Yes, they are soooo much better than canned! And I just love trips down memory lane. :)