Baked Beans

Beans, beans, the musical fruit:
The more you eat, the more you toot!
The more you toot, the better you feel,
So eat your beans at every meal!

Such crassness, to start a food blog entry!  But we are talking beans and unless you are armed with a stomach and intestinal track like a cast iron pot you probably know the meaning of this school yard rhyme.  

That rather (ahem) windy subject aside, beans are a most beloved food for some.  I, myself, don't have that kind of relationship with the baked bean, but I am rather fond of plain beans, but Don can and will eat them every day.  I wouldn't be surprised if he'd enjoy them on Christmas Day along with the vegetables and dressing and all things that go with that festive day.  So we usually have homemade baked beans in the refrigerator and the cupboard is lined with emergency cans of the sweet brown bean.  

Baked Beans were served on Friday nights when I was a little girl.  My sister always looked forward to Friday night supper when Mom would have Baked Beans and homemade brown bread made with molasses (whole wheat).  For me it was the worst meal of the week.  I hated Baked Beans and loathed brown bread.  We were expected to eat the meals Mom made and there was no "Poor little Lois doesn't like beans or brown bread.  I'll make her something else."  Ha!  That thought never crossed my Mother's mind as it was unthinkable to cater to a child's foolish whims.  Baked Beans and brown bread were good wholesome foods not to be sneered at or left on the plate.  So I would eat my beans and bread and hope the stores ran out of beans and whole wheat flour so Mom couldn't make any next week. 

As I grew older I became adept at avoiding the dreaded beans but then I married a man who loved them almost as much as he loved me.  What could I do but make or buy them as it was a pleasure to prepare meals my husband enjoyed.  Over the years I have been eating baked beans as sparingly as I can, taking a small spoonful to his cupful.  It's funny that when I am faced with actually eating beans I don't find them as disagreeable in the mouth as I do in the mind.  I can and have eaten a whole meal of beans and brown bread (that I really like now) and have enjoyed every mouthful.  But if you ask me if I like beans, I'll say, "No".  

Any cooked dried bean is a good source of protein and can be the main dish in any meal including breakfast.  Baked Beans can be as sweet or plain as you'd like to make them.  I prefer them sweeter but Don likes them a little more savoury.  If you've never made Baked Beans before start with the lower amount of sugar, molasses and ketchup as you can add more before they are finished baking.  People often prepare beans with a slab of bacon or fat back pork but, of course, my beans are vegetarian--the poor old pig is always safe around our house.  

Baked Beans
1 pound dry small white beans (Navy, Great Northern, etc.)
¼ - ½ cup molasses (fancy or table molasses)
¼ - ½ cup ketchup
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 onion, chopped (Optional--I can't believe anyone would have an onion as optional.)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder (Optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Water as needed

Open package of beans and soak in water all day or overnight.  The water should come several inches above the beans as they will double in size.  Next day, drain beans and place in a large saucepan or pot.  Cover with fresh water and bring to a gentle boil or simmer for about 1 hour.  The beans should be almost as tender as you would eat them.  Once the other ingredients are added they will not get much softer even after baking.   If the beans are still hard, continue simmering until soft enough.  

Drain the simmering water off the beans and place the hot beans in a large casserole or slow cooker.  Mix in the remaining ingredients stirring to combine.  Add enough hot water to just cover the beans.  Cover beans with the casserole or slow cooker cover.

For the oven:  Bake beans covered at 300 degrees for 2 hours, checking several times to make sure the beans have not dried out.  Add more water if necessary as the beans will not bake properly if they dry out.  Continue baking until beans are to the desired consistency.  The longer and slower (heat) the baking, the darker the beans will become.  If you like soupy beans make sure you add more water.  If the beans are too soupy, continue baking uncovered for about half an hour until some of the liquid will be evaporated.  Remember the beans will thicken up as they sit. 

For the slow cooker:  Bake beans covered on low for up to 8 hours or overnight. If your slow cooker tends to cook things faster than the recommended times in recipes check to make sure the beans are not drying out.  I find I rarely have to add extra water to beans cooked on low.  You may also cook these on high for 4-5 hours but you will have to stir them occasionally and may have to add a little water.  I usually start mine on high for the first couple of hours and then turn them to low and let them cook all day or all night long depending what time I start the beans. 

When baking is nearly completed taste for salt and add more if needed.  If the beans are not sweet enough you may also add a little more sugar or molasses and ketchup.  Continue baking.

Today I used Great Northern Beans.  They are just a shade larger than Navy Beans.  I used half the 900 gram package, which is about 1 pound.

Cover the beans with water and soak overnight or all day long.  You can see how the beans became rehydrated and take up more room in the bowl.  They are now ready for the first round of cooking.

I use my slow cooker for beans.  This is the first cooking.  The beans become tender and soft.  Drain off the cooking liquid and return the cooked beans to the slow cooker or casserole dish.   I don't keep my cooking liquid as the more times the water is changed the better the digestion of the beans.  

Add the remaining ingredients to the cooked beans.  You may use more or less ingredients to your own particular taste.  Stir and mix well.  Add enough water to just cover the beans and let them bake until the desired consistency and colour is achieved.

Brown and sweet.  Done to perfection.  
High winds predicted!

A meal of Baked Beans, Veggie Hot Dogs, Fried Potatoes and Coleslaw.  


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