best baked beans with a bite

Homemade baked beans are a staple in our house. I put a crock of beans in the oven once a month. Sadly for Ralph, I’ve never made the same baked beans recipe twice. It’s too much fun trying to come up with the best recipe. I’ve made them too watery, too thick, too soft, too hard [which caused a very noisy night!], too sweet and too bland. No matter how not-the-best the beans where, Ralph kindly ate them. He’s such a good guy!

After so many attempts to find the magic, I have a pretty clear idea as to what we do and don’t like. We like our beans firm but not mushy. Italians describe this texture as ‘al dente’ – firm to the bite. The insipid texture of canned beans is probably why so many children shudder at the thought of beans and wieners! Then there’s the molasses verses tomato debate. When most people refer to homemade baked beans, they’re alluding to Boston baked beans which calls for molasses as the predominant flavour. I prefer a smoky, hot tangy tomato character rather than the sweet sticky quality created from molasses.

And so after years of trials and toots. I give you my ‘best baked beans with a bite!’

My bean of choice is the Great Northern. A large white bean with a delicate distinctive flavor. You can substitute whatever dried bean you prefer. They will need to be soaked over night in cold water then drained and rinsed before using.

I use an old bean crock that I bought at a yard sale years ago. The thick walls of the crock create a perfect environment for the beans to bake slowly and evenly. You can use either a casserole dish or an oven proof pot as long as they have a well fitted lid. You want the steam created during the baking process to re-penetrate the beans.

Remember the roasted garlic recipe that I shared last week? This is a great place to try it out. If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, fresh minced garlic will do the trick as well! I wanted a salty, smoky zing so I chose bacon, shallots and a whole dried cayenne chili pepper to add with the tomatoes. Instead of using regular canned tomatoes, I used  passata di pomodoro which is an Italian tomato purée, which has been “passed” through a sieve to remove seeds and lumps.

 best baked beans with a bite

1 lb dried Great Northern beans

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 heaping tablespoon roasted garlic or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 lb bacon, chopped

1 1/2 cups passata di pomodoro or canned tomatoes passed through a food mill with a medium disc

1 whole dried cayenne chili

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • soak beans over night in cold water then rinse thoroughly and return drained beans to the  crock.

  • preheat oven 325*F

  • Add all other ingredients, stir well then add enough water to cover the beans by 1″

  • cover and place in preheated oven

  • check beans every 2 hours until they reach the desired texture – my beans took 5 hours

THE LOVE: don’t allow the the liquid to drop below the level of the beans. If your beans are drying out too frequently reduce the temperature of your oven by 25*. I only had to add water once near the end of the cooking time!

Thanks for reading