I really liked baked beans when I was a kid, but anymore I find them to be way too sweet and no wonder: many of the the baked bean recipes contain refined sugar. Not only that, many also contain ketchup which, unless you’re paying attention to labels, can also contain added sugar.
After doing a little digging through my cookbook collection, I found this recipe in a cookbook I picked up a few years ago for a buck in an antique shop in western Michigan, titled “The New England Cookbook” published by the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, Illinois, in 1956.
Notice the use of MSG in these recipes. That surprised me; I think baked beans are plenty tasty without a “flavor enhancer.” Then I noticed that one of the sponsors of this little publication was Ac’cent. I’m not going to jump into the debate about MSG, but I never use it. If food “needs” MSG to taste good, then something is wrong with the preparation in my opinion.
Also interesting is that recipe for Baked Bean Sandwiches: never heard of that before, have you? It didn’t sound too appetizing at first, but broiling anything topped with bacon is probably pretty good. Let me know if you try it.
So using the baked bean base recipe as a place to start, I made the following modifications:
- Substituted pinto beans for navy beans
- Substituted lean bacon for salt pork
- Substituted 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup for brown sugar
- Substituted 2 cups chopped onions for onion juice
- Increased amount of dry mustard
- Increased amount of cider vinegar
- Omitted MSG
Then I added the following savory “flavor enhancers”:
- Tomato paste
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard
- Fresh chopped garlic
I cooked the beans in an enameled cast iron casserole on the stovetop for about 3-1/2 hours. After they cooled, I put the entire casserole into the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I took the casserole out of the fridge and let it stand at room temp for a couple of hours before reheating. The flavors had improved overnight, and they would’ve been delicious to eat at that point.
Because I like a little less liquid in my baked beans, I decided to bake a little of it off in a hot oven (450 degrees F) for about 20 minutes until they were bubbly and browned. Wow! Reducing the liquid intensified the sweet and savory flavors and the result was not just good baked beans, but awesome baked beans.
When I make this for the 4th of July, I might try some chili powder and cumin for little Southwestern flavor. I also think I’ll reduce the maple syrup to 1/3 cup.
Get the recipe for Awesome Baked Beans