A truly satisfying meal!
For the past couple of weeks, I have avoided my kitchen. Anyone that knows me would be shocked by this admission because of the satisfaction I normally receive from working in it. In fact, for the past while I have actually been banished from my own kitchen. Why? I have been sick with strep throat, and believe me, the kitchen was the last place I wanted to be in! No fun!
After the antibiotics started to work my appetite slowly returned, but I still wasn’t ready to jump in and cook up a storm. Only certain foods appealed to me, thankfully the one meal I was craving actually has been a favourite of mine for many years. My aunt always laughed as she recalled the times when I was young and visiting her house. She would ask what I would like to eat for lunch, and I usually replied with the same answer: “Well, I’m a bean girl myself.” Auntie Tina didn’t have the actual homemade beans like my mom, but I didn’t care, canned beans were the next best thing! So, I am sure you can guess what I was craving after being ill? Yes, a steaming plate of homemade baked beans, Maritime style!
Homemade baked beans have been a true comfort food since the early settlers arrived. Simple ingredients, but full of flavour. Maybe it is an east coast thing, I don’t know, but I think I could live on baked beans and biscuits! Even though they are related to canned baked beans, there is a world of difference in taste.
Growing up we ate mom’s homemade baked beans often, always accompanied with her wonderful biscuits right out of the oven and slathered with butter. It was a Saturday tradition, sometimes for lunch, other times supper. For a special treat, dad would go to the local bakery and buy fresh baked rolls to go along with them.
Nowadays, I confess that I don’t make beans as often as I would like to because the guys around here aren’t quite as in love with them as I am. However, whip up some fresh biscuits and I can usually twist their arm into having a plate or two.
I add a bit of ground ginger and black pepper to my recipe for an interesting flavour and one of my sons likes it if I add a tablespoon of barbeque sauce. I know this is not traditional, however, I don’t mind adding a few modern touches if it means my family will eat them more often.
If you have access to old cookbooks, you will find salt pork mentioned with most baked bean recipes. This was the standard in the old days when meat was preserved in salt and kept over the winter. I find that thick cut bacon (nitrate free) works well and is readily available.
Soaking the beans ahead of time is an important step, so you need to give yourself at least six to eight hours for this, and I often place the beans in the refrigerator overnight. I happen to love a certain type of bean called “yellow eye”, and whenever I can find these larger beans with the brown center, I stock up. Small white Navy beans are very commonly used in baked beans today, and I always have them on hand.
Now that the colder days are upon us it’s the perfect time for homemade baked beans. They are such a satisfying yet economical meal. Wait until you smell the aroma as they cook! If you happen to have any beans leftover, try them for breakfast on toast. They are amazingly good!
Homemade Baked Beans
- 2 cups small Navy Beans or Yellow Eye Beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 medium size onion, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of fancy molasses
- 2 or 3 slices thick cut bacon
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Rinse beans and sort through.
Soak beans in water for at least 6 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and place the beans in a large saucepan. Cover the beans with approximately 6 cups of water or enough to cover.
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then simmer for approximately 1/2 hour. Test to see if beans are tender. The skins should begin to lift a little when you blow on them. The beans must be nearly as tender as when you eat them as they will not soften very much during the baking. However, do not simmer too long or the beans will get mushy. Keep in mind though that the yellow eyed beans will take a bit longer to simmer than the navy beans.
Drain, and place beans in a bean crock or oven proof casserole dish. Add the rest of the ingredients except the onion and bacon. Add enough water to cover the beans. Insert the onion in the middle of the bean crock and cover with the bacon (you may need to cut the bacon in half).
Bake 4-6 hours, removing the lid the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Avoid stirring the beans. Add a little more water if necessary.
Serve with warm biscuits or fresh baked oatmeal brown bread and a "titch" of molasses.