Think a minute. When was the last time you did something totally outrageous for supper? You probably don’t remember because we don’t cook that way. We’ve eaten decades of baked navy beans. If you think it’s time for a change, try our kidney-bean variation.
Think a minute. When was the last time you did something totally outrageous for supper? You probably don’t remember because we don’t cook that way.
In most families, recipes stay the same. That’s fine. Familiar food usually is good food.
Then again, an occasional flight of fancy will break the routine. Here’s one:
We’ve eaten Boston baked beans for decades (navy beans baked in a pork and molasses sauce). Can there be a better way?
How about dumping the navy beans and using kidney beans instead? It’s radical, but it works. Navy beans are fairly bland. Kidney beans have more bean flavor.
The best baked beans are made from dried beans. That takes many hours of soaking and boiling. Canned beans are OK in a rush. Most people don’t know the difference, and canned is most familiar.
Canned baked beans were invented for the Union Army in the Civil War. They added salt pork to beans and stewed tomatoes.
Modern cans are labeled “pork and beans” if they contain a tiny piece of pork, not enough to flavor anything.
If you’re considering baked beans, avoid the canned style entirely or dress it up with your own ingredients.
Other canned beans come in a salty, slimy liquid. If you use canned, wash that off on a strainer and don’t use the canning liquid.
The English are far ahead of us. They view the baked more like a condiment than a side dish. They top scrambled eggs with them. Then there’s the baked-bean sandwich, beans piled on toast with mustard and an onion slice. The Brits even eat baked beans cold, right out of the can. Don’t knock it if you don’t try it.
Americans are hooked on the Boston canned style, but there are some homemade gems. In Maine and Eastern Canada, they substitute maple syrup for the molasses. In the American South, the sauce is laced with brown mustard and perhaps a dash of horseradish. In Texas, they add dried hot peppers, seeds and all, beer and chunks of smoked beefsteak.
Californians cannot make up their minds. Their style is to combine canned baked beans with kidneys and limas. They use ground beef instead of pork plus chopped onions, brown sugar, vinegar and ketchup.
Baked kidneys borrow a little from all of the styles to result in something memorable. The secret ingredients are ground cinnamon and ginger.
KIDNEY BAKED BEANS
1 large can (about 28 ounces) kidney beans
8 strips bacon, cut width-wise and fried
1 large, green pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 14-ounce bottle ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown (Dusseldorf) mustard
Drain fried bacon. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon. Sauté the onion and pepper in it until the onion is transparent.
Add crumbled bacon, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger and mustard to the veggies. Cook and stir often until bubbly. (Add a little water or beer if the sauce is too thick.)
Drain the canned beans and wash off in a strainer. Lower sauce heat to a simmer and add beans. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Serves 6 to 8
Note: If using dried beans, follow the package instructions then drain beans and bake at least 2 hours covered at 350 degrees. Test for doneness.
Jim Hillibish writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at email@example.com.