baked beans with bacon
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Homemade baked beans with bacon and molasses, cooked for five hours in the oven. Baked beans from scratch? Soaked overnight and all? Instead of just opening a tin? Why not, if they can do it in Boston?
Baked beans with bacon are called b-b-beans in my house; not particularly inventively. Twenty years ago we wouldn’t dream of baking beans at home (apart from truly dedicated Bostonians); we would just open a tin of Heinz and pour them onto a toast.
Beans on toast is something I have never acquired a taste for and can’t really get my head around, not being a born and bred Englishman. My mum never heated up beans for my tea (not that her offer was super-choice better than that) and I never rummaged drunkenly in the cupboard, scraping mould off the bread to feed my student self after a night out. Different culture, different tins.
Risking blasphemy, I must admit I don’t like Heinz beans. Too sugary, too mushy, too ketchupy (between me and you, I don’t like Heinz tomato soup or Campbell cream of mushroom either – what’s wrong with me?). But I like beans and I appreciate their fibre-rich, filling qualities (though the wind-related side effects not so much). And so there come Boston beans, the classic cooked for hours and hours with a proper slab bacon home cut into chunks, molasses and mustard.
It is an awesome dish, side effects regardless – just don’t drink beer with your dinner of beans, that’s catastrophic. A truly wintry comfort food, it can easily be put on toast if you’re of that disposition. The kitchen smells adorable the whole afternoon while the beans are cooking; though admittedly it does smell also on the next days and not so adorable any more. It’s completely worth the effort – and it gives you a sense of achievement that opening a thousand Heinz tins wouldn’t match up to.
baked beans with baconServings: 4Time: 30 minutes plus baking for 5 hours
- 250g (2 cups) pinto beans
- 1 medium onion, peeled
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp ancho chilli flakes
- 250g (½ pound) smoked streaky bacon, diced not too thinly (slab bacon if you can get it and dice it yourself)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground in pestle and mortar
- 4 tbsp. ketchup
- 80ml (1/3 cup) molasses
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- a few drops Tabasco sauce
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1. Soak the beans in salty water overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, cloves, bay leaf and ancho chilli flakes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and set the beans aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/gas 2. Place a large ovenproof casserole dish with a lid on the hob over high heat and fry the bacon until lightly crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside with the beans. Brown the chopped onion in the same dish with the cumin. Alternatively use a frying pan for the bacon and onions and preheat the casserole in the oven if it can’t be used on the hob.
3. Transfer the onions to the casserole (or keep it in the one used on the hob). Return the bacon and beans onto the onions. Mix the ketchup, molasses, mustard, pepper, salt and Tabasco in a small bowl and add to the beans.
4. Boil the kettle and pour just enough boiling water to cover the beans. Put the lid on and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but not falling apart, 4 to 5 hours.
5. Remove beans from oven, uncover, stir in the apple cider vinegar and taste for seasoning with salt. Return the pot to the oven uncovered and let the beans finish cooking until the sauce has thickened and the top is deeply crusty, about 45 minutes more.