Bean there, done that

In my ongoing efforts to replace ordinary packaged products with their homemade equivalents, I decided to try making baked beans from scratch. I spotted a recipe in Saveur magazine that looked reasonable.

At 1 a.m. this morning, I realized I had forgotten to put the beans in water to soak overnight. So I got up and did that. Saveur includes a fallback for quick soaking (boil for 2 minutes then soak for an hour and a half), but I was trying to go the traditional route. By 9 a.m. the beans were nicely soaked.

First thing in the morning, I made a batch of homemade ketchup, since the recipe called for ketchup. This may sound as if I am taking things altogether too far, but it takes only 5 minutes prep time, then I put it on the stove to bubble away while I am doing other things in the kitchen, so it hardly cuts into my schedule.

The next step involved studding a couple of shallots with cloves, which felt vaguely like a Pioneer Village craft (English readers will have no idea what I am talking about). The recipe called for onions, but I had shallots instead. I also substituted little cubes of pancetta for the bacon. Let’s not get too traditional here.

I halved the recipe in the magazine, so we wouldn’t be eating baked beans until kingdom come. As I write, the beans have another half hour of cooking to go, but the taste test suggests they will be worth it. The tinned variety is comparatively textureless and bland. These beans are a bit chewier and the flavour is more complex. 

So if you want to try it yourself, here’s what you do. I apologize for the mix of Imperial and metric, but metric is helpful when you are halving odd quantities, such as “ ¼ cup plus two tablespoons” (for heaven’s sake). I should also note that some of the amounts have not been halved exactly. But this worked for me. 

½ lb. navy beans
1 shallot, trimmed and peeled, but left whole
8 whole cloves (the recipe called for 4 for twice the number of beans, which seemed a little too subtle)
4 oz. pancetta, cut into small cubes
40 ml maple syrup
25 ml unsulphured molasses (i.e., the stuff that says “no sulphites”)
1 tsp dry mustard
3 cups boiling water
⅓ cup ketchup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar 

Heat the oven to 250°F or 130°C. Stud the shallot with the cloves. Put it in a casserole with a lid. Add the drained beans, pancetta, maple syrup, molasses, mustard, and boiling water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours. Add the ketchup and vinegar and give it another 3 hours, stirring every so often.Take out the clove-studded shallots before serving.

The original recipe suggesting stirring in dark rum before serving, but we didn’t have any and it seemed rather too precious, so I ignored this ingredient. And I didn’t bother with salt and pepper either. We can add that later if it seems to need it, but I don’t think it will.

If you live in New England, serve with brown bread. If not, I recommend a green salad and baguette.
We may never go back to Heinz.

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