Making homemade baked beans is one of those things that screamed “TOO TIME CONSUMING” whenever I thought about it. I remember my father spending two days working on his beans and then having them turn out dry and unappealing. Because of this history, I never tried making my own, but rather opted for the easy route of buying baked beans in a can.
Although the beans in the can are excellent, I still want to get away from eating most everything that is processed and what I consider convenience food. Some things will always be on my shopping list because they are just too difficult to try to duplicate, but so many people make wonderful homemade beans that I had to give it a try.
My first challenge was to find a recipe that sounded good. Every recipe followed basically the same ingredient list:
- Dry or canned beans
- Bacon – Cooked or not/smoked or regular
- Brown Sugar
- Maple syrup or molasses
- Ketchup or tomato paste
- Vinegar, lemon juice or worcestershire sauce
- Mustard – Dried or prepared (regular or Dijon)
- Garlic or garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
With so many choices though it was hard to decide which recipe to use. Sitting down I decided to make a list of my criteria:
- They had to be fairly quick and easy. This meant dry beans were out. Being that I can my own Great Northern beans anyhow, using home-canned beans sounded ideal. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Housewife for Canning Beans
- They had to have a hint of smoke flavor. This meant smoked bacon would be used over plain. Plus I didn’t want the bacon soggy and slimy so I would crisp it slightly. At the same time this would render the fat from the bacon so I could cook the onion before adding it to the beans.
- Hubby doesn’t really like maple flavoring. This meant molasses was in.
- They had to be saucy (no dry beans for us). This meant that the liquid ingredient had to be increased. Granted a recipe might claim to be saucy, but I wanted them real saucy. Plus, I wanted a richer flavor than just plain water, so I opted to use chicken broth.
- I didn’t want them to have too much of a tomato taste. This meant I’d try ketchup before the tomato paste.
- I wanted to use ingredients I had on hand. This eliminated dry mustard because I was out. I had both regular and Dijon mustard so I used a little of both.
- I didn’t want the garlic to overwhelm the other flavors. This meant I’d use garlic powder which would also help eliminate any bitterness that fresh garlic might have.
With my list of parameters, I set to work on homemade baked beans.
The first step was to crisp the bacon slightly while rendering the fat from it.
Then I used the rendered fat to cook the minced onion.
Now I know a lot of people out there are concerned about cholesterol and high blood pressure that they think is being caused by high fat content, but I don’t follow that way of thinking. As long as you are active and consume fat in moderation, there is nothing wrong with eating it. Plus, bacon fat is far healthier than Crisco or any of those processed lards that are sold in the stores. Unless you render the lard yourself, you aren’t using real lard. Finally, fat contains a ton of flavor. Nothing frustrates me more than when a recipe calls for you to skim off the fat (especially in soups or stocks) before using or serving. In my opinion, you are skimming off the flavor. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now, but — just saying.
Once the onion was tender, I combined it with all the remaining ingredients in a 5 quart Dutch oven.
I suppose a slow cooker could be used, but with the beans already being cooked and tender, there isn’t any reason other than if you needed to start them earlier in the day because you were going to be out. These could also be baked in the oven, but I liked being able to monitor the beans progress throughout the entire cooking process.
The final step was to add the cut up cooked bacon to the beans and simmer them for an hour or so.
I left mine on the stove for four hours which turned out to be too long because the beans basically dissolved. This meant I had to add more beans. In the end it wasn’t so bad because with the extra chicken broth I added the beans needed a bit of thickening, which the dissolved beans helped accomplish but left me with no beans to eat. Of course this made the pot of beans twice what it was originally supposed to be, but who doesn’t love leftover baked beans?
The results were very good and the family was pleased. Even Zeb had some and asked for seconds which is saying a lot because he basically only eats meat and pasta.
Finally I’ve overcome my fear of making baked beans and have yet another side dish to add to the recipe book. They are quick, easy, and have a somewhat barbecue flavor that everyone liked, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.
Homemade Saucy Baked Beans
- 6 Slices Thick Cut Smoked Bacon
- 3/4 Large Sweet Onion, Minced
- 1 Quart plus 1 Pint Home Canned or Store Bought Great Northern Beans
- 1 1//2 to 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 1 Cup Ketchup
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 3 -4 Tbsp. Molasses
- 2 Tbsp. Vinegar or Lemon Juice
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon or Regular Mustard (or a combination)
- 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
- Cook bacon until slightly crisp, reserving all rendered fat.
- Mince onion and cook until tender in reserved bacon fat.
- Combine beans (in their liquid), onion, and remaining ingredients in Dutch oven.
- Stir to combine.
- Cook over medium heat for 1 -3 hours, being careful not to boil too hard or the beans will dissolve.
I adjusted the recipe to take into account the extra liquid that only thickened when more beans were added. I decreased my original amount of chicken broth as well as added an extra pint of beans. The results should be the same without so many leftovers. This recipe should result in a side serving of beans for between four and eight people.
Note: Not rinsing the beans helps to thicken the sauce. If you insist on rinsing them, be sure to decrease the amount of chicken broth so the beans aren’t the consistency of soup.