Baked beans is one of those dishes that were done a disservice by the canned version – not that there’s anything wrong with opening a can of baked beans, but the real thing is so much better – like real chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, vs. those that come out of a bag. No comparison. You can start with canned beans, but using dry beans is not only authentic (and dirt cheap), it’s easier than you might think. Beans are packed with fiber, protein and other nutrients, but baking them low and slow with bacon, beer, barbecue sauce and brown sugar will transform them into something irresistibly good – perfect for your Super Bowl party, or just a midwinter meal.
Also? There’s no better potpourri than a simmering pot of baked beans.
Start with small white beans – Great Northern or navy beans work well (Rancho Gordo has a great selection available to order online!) and soak them overnight – it requires a bit of planning ahead, but no actual effort. On Saturday night, cover them with water and let them sit on the countertop.
On Sunday morning, simmer the pre-soaked beans until they’re just tender. Then they’re ready for turning into a pot of real baked beans – cook up the bacons and onions, add everything else and slide them into the oven around noon to let them simmer all afternoon, luring in football fans with its irresistible smell.
For a vegetarian version, ditch the bacon and sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive or other vegetable oil. To make it vegan, ditch the Worcestershire sauce, too.
Serve as-is, in bowls with crusty bread, biscuits, cornbread or crunchy corn chips.
Real Baked Beans with Bacon & Beer
1 – 1 1/2 cups dry Great Northern or other small white beans (or two 19 oz/540 mL cans, drained)
6 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup beer (or apple juice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
a few drops of hot sauce, or chipotle sauce
Cover dry beans with plenty of water (2-3 times the volume of beans) and let sit for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water in a pot, and simmer for about an hour, or until tender but al dente. Drain.
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large, ovenproof pot, cook the bacon and onions over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, until the fat has rendered from the bacon, the bacon is cooked and the onions are soft. Add the beans and remaining ingredients, stir to combine them well, cover the pot and bake for 2 1/2 hours, stirring once or twice (add more liquid if it seems dry) until thickened and saucy. Serve hot. Serves 6-10.