Happy belated 4th of July! While we are still celebrating this rainy holiday weekend in the South, I thought I would share a recipe for one of the dishes I consider to be a classic edition to any barbecue and summertime menu (and one that can be prepared indoors) – Baked Beans. These beans, however, are not just any baked beans; they have been kicked up a bit with the addition of a few special ingredients and a little heat. This recipe will soon become one of your favorites.
July happens to be National Baked Beans month, so there couldn’t be a more perfect time to share this side dish recipe with you. I baked my beans in a Le Creuset beanpot. Beanpots are usually associated with traditional New England cooking, like Boston Baked Beans (and you know how much we love and miss Boston after our recent trip). While this recipe is not a standard recipe for the beans prepared in Boston, I think I have done them proud with the flavors in this notable little side dish.
I used molasses as one of the sweeteners in the beans, which was a significant ingredient in Boston Baked Beans. Widely available in the 17th and 18th centuries, molasses was imported to Boston from the Caribbean. It was then turned into rum and exported to West Africa as part of the Trans-Atlantic Triangular Trade (which was part of the slave trade). Rum was sold to purchase the workers in Africa and then they were transported to the Caribbean to grow more sugar cane which was turned into molasses.
Whatever molasses was not converted to rum was used in cooking for recipes such as Boston Brown Bread, Indian Pudding, and particularly in slow cooked dishes, like Boston Baked Beans. As a matter of fact, it was the mariners associated with this triangle trade visiting Boston during the colonial times that gave Boston the nickname, Beantown.
I tried this recipe using dried beans and soaking them overnight, but preferred using the canned beans to the dried ones. The canned beans cooked much better and did not absorb all of the liquids as the soaked beans did. Slow cooked for two and a half hours, these beans were slightly sweet, but not as sweet as Boston Baked Beans, and perfectly cooked with a bit of heat. Cutting back on the original amount of brown sugar and molasses by half, this was the perfect combination of flavors for us. Of course, adjust the seasonings to suit your own taste.
Try this recipe the next time you are preparing a barbecue at home or are taking a side dish to a pot luck or dinner party. You can easily double or triple the recipe and it will all happily fit into this cute little beanpot. You will just need to adjust the cooking time for a larger recipe.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
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Four Bean Baked Beans
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
You can bake these beans in a beanpot or a casserole dish. If you use a casserole dish, cover and reduce the amount of cooking time, checking after an hour and a half. If you double or triple the recipe and prepare it in a beanpot, nearly filling the pot, you will need to increase the cooking time accordingly.
15 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 ounce can Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
28 ounce can Vegetarian Baked Beans (I used Bush's)
1/2 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup spicy BBQ sauce (I used Stubb's Sweet Heat, which adds both heat and some sweetness)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray beanpot or casserole dish with canola oil cooking spray.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into prepared beanpot or casserole dish. (*If you are using a Le Creuset beanpot, this mixture will only fill a 1/4 to 1/3 of your beanpot.) Cover and place into preheated oven.
3. Cook beans in a beanpot for 2 1/2 hours. This amount of cooking time will give you a nice saucy texture with perfectly cooked beans. Remove from the oven and let sit with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Adapted from a Le Creuset recipe