Monday, May 26, 2008

All-American Baked Beans

For my eldest daughter's graduation party, I made Grandma Jane's Special Potato Salad, Barbecued Chicken and All-American Baked Beans from a cookbook I bought years ago--The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukens. On Saturday evening, I soaked the beans, and on Sunday morning, I cooked them, leaving them to drain while we were at church. When we returned on Sunday afternoon, I finished up the beans, adding the bacon and sauce and pouring them all into a big electric roaster. They were very well-received, especially by my mother-in-law Kathie who asked me several questions about the recipe throughout the afternoon. It wasn't until the next morning that she told me she'd never known that baked beans came from navy or Great Northern beans, and that she'd never seen baked beans made from scratch!

Because beans are so inexpensive, the addition of the more costly real maple syrup justifiable. These beans take a long while because you have to soak them the night before, cook them ahead of time, and then bake them for about three hours. Don't forget, like I did, to reserve the liquid in which you cooked the beans, but if you do, it's not a tragedy. If your beans are getting too dry, add a bit of water.

I multiplied this recipe by six for my party, and it half-filled my electric roaster.


All-American Baked Beans
Serves 10-12

1 pound dried navy or Great Northern beans
8 ounces slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
6 tablespoons maple syrup
6 tablespoons dark molasses
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and pick through the beans. Soak them overnight in a large pot of water.
Rinse the soaked beans well under cold water and place them in a heavy saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place a 2-quart flameproof casserole or dutch oven over medium heat and saute bacon until slightly crisp and fat is rendered, about five minutes. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until it's wilted, about 5 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and stir over medium-low heat until it has dissolved, about five minutes. Stir in the ketchup, syrup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Add the drained beans and mix well.
Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours. Make sure you scrape the bottom when you stir.
Add 3/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid, cover, and bake another 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake, stirring once, until the sauce is thick and syrupy, another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

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