Monday, March 24, 2008

Baked Beans

I used to hate baked brown beans. HATE them. From the can? Hate them. The ones my grandfather made? Hated them. Much like my broccoli re-awakening (going from boiled-to-death-and-covered-with-packaged-cheese-sauce of childhood to discovering that one could actually leave them a bit firm, bright green, and enjoy them on their own) it took a single alternative meal to reverse my feelings on the bean subject.

The memory is a little fuzzy now, but it was one of my earlier meals in Almonte, courtesy of Michael Dunn. When I learned that baked beans were a featured part of the meal, I had to prepare myself for some pretending-that-I-liked them acting. No need, they were great. I mean, really great. It turns out, canned beans and my grandfathers were sort of "UK style" based on tomato sauce, with not much sugar, and no tanginess at all, and made with mushy white "Navy" or haricot beans. These were more southern US + a dash of Quebec style, which means firm black turtle beans, and aforementioned tang from the addition of yellow mustard and ketchup (which has vinegar), and much sweeter (molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup). Wow, just so different, so good, so dark, such a different texture.

Karen's parents latched onto this recipe also, and as far as I know, have made no other one since.

3 cups black turtle beans
1/4 lb. slab bacon or salt pork
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes
2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dark maple syrup to taste '

Rinse beans and sort, if necessary, discarding any blemished ones and any grit.

In large Dutch oven or stockpot, cover beans with 3 times their volume of water. Bring to boil; boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, discarding liquid.

Return soaked beans to pot along with 3 times their volume of fresh water. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, dice bacon and it set aside. In bowl, and using potato masher, mash tomatoes in their juice.

In bean pot or 16-cup casserole, combine beans, reserved cooking liquid, bacon, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, molasses, mustard, salt and pepper.

Bake, covered, in 300°F. oven for 2.5 hours. Uncover and bake for 1 - 1.5 hours longer or until sauce is thickened and coats beans well.