I don’t know about you, but my Mother always made her baked beans by doctoring up the canned variety of baked beans with ketchup, onion and brown sugar. For years I have been making baked beans by first opening a can and adding a variety of things from sausage to green peppers. I remember that years ago my Aunt Ruth always brought baked beans to our Christmas Eve celebration and everyone thought they were so special because she started out with dried great northern beans. I don’t know what took me so long to actually make beans from scratch, so to speak, but I am so glad that I did and no canned beans will ever grace my pantry again. They take time, but it is waiting time, not active time, so if you plan ahead you will be rewarded with the best baked beans you have ever tasted.
The recipe that I chose to follow came from Ina Garten. I trust her instincts and liked her ingredients. Instead of great northern or other white beans, she used dried red kidney beans. She flavored them with pure maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, Chinese chili paste and fresh ginger. Thick cut bacon cubes were added for meatiness. As I write this at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning, I am thinking about going to the refrigerator and scooping out a serving and warming the beans for breakfast. They were that good. If you are serving ham for Easter on Sunday, this would be the perfect side dish. Happy Easter.
MAPLE BAKED BEANS (From The Barefoot Contessa at Home)
1 pound dry red kidney beans
1 large yellow onion, cut in eighths
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
3/4 cup medium amber pure maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Chinese chili paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces thick-cut bacon, cubed
Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 1 inch and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overningt. Drain and rinse the beans and then drain again.
Place the beans in a large pot with 2 quarts water, the onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until tender. A good test is to scoop up several beans in a spoon and blow on them; if the skins start to peel off, they’re done. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. In a small saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, chili paste, ginger, salt, and 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, still reserving the remaining liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes.
Transfer the beans to a medium Dutch oven or a bean pot. Push half the bacon into the beans and place the rest on the top. Pour the maple syrup sauce over the beans. Place the lid on top and bake for 6 to 8 hours. Check occasionally; if the beans are too dry, add 1/2 cup more of the cooking liquid. You can remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot.