Monday, 18 March 2013

Maple Baked Beans and Bacon

    I have searched long and hard for a good recipe for baked beans.  Don't ask me why it was so important that I make baked beans.  Somehow making baked beans from scratch proves how much I love my family.  This sounds nuts, but much of what I say does, I admit it freely.  I have tried making baked beans in the past, and they turned out terrible.  The beans were always too crunchy.  Some of this I will owe to the fact that I am impatient, and I discovered this time that to make baked beans it takes a loooooong time!
    After many attempts and failures, I have found the recipe.  The funny thing is that it's the recipe that was on the back of the bag of beans, I just tweaked it a little.  I must warn you that these beans are not for those in a time crunch.  It takes a good deal of planning  and time management to make these beans, but let me tell you they are worth it.
    To make these tasty brown nuggets of joy you will need a 454g bag of white pea beans.  I followed the directions (which is unusual for me).   They suggest rinsing the beans in cold water, and then letting them soak overnight in a bowl of cold water.  If you want to enjoy said beans for your dinner, I would recommend starting them in the morning.  I on the other hand did not read the instructions and began making mine at 12:00 noon.  

You will need....

1 bag of 454g white pean beans                                1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt                                                                  4 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar                                                    1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp prepared mustard                                              1/2 cup fancy molasses
1 cup ketchup                                                            1/4 pound of bacon (save the grease)

    The package recommends filling a large pot with cold water and the beans and then covering the pot.  I used my dutch oven.  They suggest allowing them to simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.  I tried them at 30 minutes, and they were still crunchy.  I let them cook closer to 45 - 60 minutes.  I should also warn you that my pot boiled over... several times.  It was a mess.  I kept reminding myself that this would all be worth it....I hoped.  I feel like I need to impart some wisdom that the bean package shared. It's important that the beans are the perfect texture now, because they do not soften in the oven.
    While I was boiling the beans I fried up some bacon.  I cooked the entire package (we had bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch).  I saved the bacon drippings (that's the less offensive way that the cooking shows call the bacon fat).  Oh I saved it all.  This may cause some of the more health conscious to gasp and gag, but to those of us who enjoy bacon, you will be drooling I'm sure.
    When the beans were finally tender I strained them and let them drain in the sink.  I chopped up a medium onion and put it in the bottom of my trusty Corningware casserole dish that I received as a wedding gift all those years ago.  The bean package suggests just dumping the other ingredients on top of the beans, but I mixed them in a bowl with a whisk.  I doubled the liquid ingredients the package suggested (I've included the doubled recipe for you below), and added 1/4 cup of maple syrup, compliments of the Prevosts.  You could adjust the maple syrup to suit your tastes.  I only added 1/4 cup because that's all of the sugary goodness that I had left.  I next did something that will make some of you cring and others salivate... I poured the beans into the bacon fat, and stirred them around.  I know, I know, not very healthy, you can omit this step if you are not as crazy for bacon as I am.  I then poured the bacony goodness into the casserole dish over top of the chopped onions.  The next step was to pour my liquids over the top and my chopped up bacon.  I very carefully and gently mixed it all together.  I slapped the lid on the top, and put it in the oven to bake at 250 degrees for ...wait for it, wait for it 7 HOURS!  I warned you, this is a food that cannot be rushed, it takes patience.

    The house smelled like heaven all day.  My husband kept trying to sneak into the oven to sample my beans.  I kept smacking him and sending him on his way.  I can honestly tell you that the work as all worth it.  The wait was all worth it.  Those beans were a big hit.  I would be a liar to say that everyone in our house loved them, because no one in our house all like the same things... meals are a nightmare.  Rowan and Christopher and Grace declared that "my beans" were the most delicious beans that they had ever tasted!  Elly and Riley thought that they were gross.  You can't win them all.
    I had them for the next night's dinner again.  I put all of the liquid ingredients into a pot and let them just come to a boil.  I then stirred that into the left over beans, and then reheated them in the oven.  I have to be honest, they were even better with the extra sauce and the next night.
    So there you go, if you have the time to spare, make these beans.  They are not quick, but if you wanted quick you would just buy them from the store.  Above all else I like to know what my family is eating.  I like to be able to say "I made that".  I like the fact that I know that I put them in the bacon grease, because who knows what they do to them in the factory.  Have you ever bought "pork and beans" in the can and realized that the "pork" was that little piece of mystery white grossness in the can.  I can assure you that there was no "mystery" meat in my pork and beans.  There was however lots of pride in a job well done.

 Please feel free to take a minute and share your favourite baked beans recipe.

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