Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baked Beans

There is something familiar and nostalgic about baked beans. Which is funny coming from me who only ate canned “Pork n’ Beans” growing up.

Admittedly, I loved them.

We ate them with hot dogs, sometimes boiled and chopped and mixed in or sometimes on the side in buns.

When I mentioned to some of my friends I was making them they smiled and recalled fond memories or their grandmothers or mothers having made them.

Let’s face it when you put animal fat, sugar and carbohydrates in one dish, what can be bad?

Of course these days I eat very little meat and living in a home with a kosher kitchen more or less nixes the pork idea, so I came up with a version that doesn’t require meat that is nonetheless rich, sweet, spicy and delicious.

The thing about baked beans is that they take a very long time to make. You need to lean into the slow food mindset and go from there.

What got me thinking about baked beans was that a while back I got some dried Pinto beans at the Union Square green market from Cayuga Organics. I figured that all beans were created equally and that even though the classic recipe calls for Great Northern or Cannellini beans, that Pintos would be just fine.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The recipe I adapted called for the beans to be baked for 5 hours covered and an hour uncovered. When all was said and done I baked my pintos for 9 hours and then finished them stovetop, adding lots of extra liquid, and that was after they had soaked over night!

Whatever beans you use they will taste great, I encourage you to experiment, just be patient.

I’d use Pinto beans again, only next time I’d start them early in the morning on a day I was going to be around, or you can make them in a crockpot and start them the night before. Of course feel free to add a smoked ham hock or some thick cut slab bacon, just be aware that these beans are plenty flavorful with the meat.

Baked Pinto Beans

Soak 2 cups of dried pinto beans in 6 cups or more of water over night.

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Place the beans in their soaking liquid into a Cazuela or Dutch oven.


1 T salt
, 5 T brown sugar, 4 T Molasses, 1 T ground Cumin, 1 T dried Oregano, ¼ cup olive oil (or canola) 15 ounce can of organic crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons dried mustard, 1 teaspoon cayenne, 2 dried Ancho peppers (seeded, stemmed and pulverized in a spice grinder – about 2 T powder), 1 teaspoon black pepper, 6 large garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped.

Stir to incorporate, place the lid on the pot and place in the oven on 325 F. Cooking time may vary, but count on 9 hours or as much as 12 if you use a crock pot (and less if you use a white or black bean).

Check in on the beans every 90 minutes or so, stir occasionally, adding more water when needed, I added about 2 more cups of water over the cooking process.

It may seem too spicy hot for you in your early tasting, but as the beans cook and thicken, they get richer and more complex tasting and the heat from the pepper diminishes. If this worries you start out with a ¼ teaspoon of cayenne and then when the dish is finished you can add more or you can serve with a bottle of Tabasco on the side for those friends who like it hot.

Serve with cultured sour cream, chopped spring onions, on a nice bed of rice.

These may take a long time to cook, but they are so easy, nutritious and tasty.

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