July is National Baked Bean month, so what better reason to make a pot of baked beans. Instead of taking a shortcut with canned beans, this time I started with dried. The result? Big baked beans with a meaty texture plus rich sweetness from brown sugar and molasses, a little kick from garlic and ginger, and smoky flavors from bacon and spices. Who could resist this summer classic?
Baked beans signal backyard barbecues, casual get-togethers, and family gatherings. Canned beans are great when you are short on time, but like many recipes, there are rewards when you start from scratch.
For years I’ve made baked beans as my mom did. By using canned beans and doctoring them up you can make tasty baked beans in about an hour. Making baked beans from scratch takes longer, but you can spread the work over two to three days if needed: soaking, simmering and finally baking. The process is easy. It just takes a little thinking ahead.
With my recent shipment of dried heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo I had a pantry full of good options for my baked beans. Goat’s Eye, Yellow Indian Woman or Jacob’s Cattle are among the many good choices. For this batch I went with the Goat’s Eye beans. If you’ve never ordered from Rancho Gordo before, have fun reading all of the bean descriptions as you decide what to purchase. They all make for a good pot of beans.
Begin by soaking the beans overnight in plenty of filtered water (or use the quick soak method to speed things up). The next day, simmer beans until tender with carrot, onion and celery. My beans took about three hours to become tender. Low and slow is the best way to cook beans.
To finish the recipe, cook the bacon, sauté some onion and garlic, add your sweet essentials and spices, then bake the beans in the oven for about an hour. You can do this the same day or cool, refrigerate after cooking and finish baking the next day.
For fun, check out this website about American food holidays. The list for July reads like a classic summer cookout. Baked beans, hot dogs, ice cream, blueberries and picnics are all honored in the month of July. However you celebrate summer, try making a delicious pot of baked beans from scratch.
Ginger Molasses Baked Beans from Scratch
- 1 pound (450 grams) heirloom dried beans such as Goat’s Eye, Yellow Indian Woman or Jacob’s Cattle
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced or chopped fine
- 1 large carrot, diced or chopped fine
- 1 large celery rib, diced or chopped fine
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced fine
- 1 large dried bay leaf (preferably Turkish)
- 3-4 slices of bacon, preferably applewood smoked and nitrate free, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups (210 grams) chopped onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced or use a garlic press
- 2 tablespoons jarred ginger puree, preferably organic
- ½ cup (120 ml) unsulphured organic molasses
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cup ketchup, preferably organic (you may not use it all)
- 1 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoons smoked black pepper (or regular, but the smoked adds great flavor)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular, but the smoked adds great flavor)
- The night ahead, place beans in a strainer, rinse and remove any broken pieces, stones or debris. Place beans in a large container and cover with several inches of filtered (not tap) water. Dried beans absorb a lot of water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. For a quick soak method see the link below.
- In a large, heavy pot (I use Le Creuset for long, slow cooking), heat olive oil and saute onion, celery and carrot until soft. Add the garlic clove and cook another 1 minute. Add the bay leaf and the soaked beans, water and all. No need to drain the beans (per the bean experts at Rancho Gordo). Bring to a boil. Boil beans for 5 minutes, then turn heat to low, partially cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 2-3 hours until the beans are tender. Check your beans occasionally to make sure they are covered with a little water. If needed, add hot filtered water (not tap water). When beans are tender, cool and refrigerate or drain and continue with the recipe.
- To finish the baked beans, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees (163C). In a large heavy pot, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off most of that bacon fat (do not wash the pan) and set bacon aside on paper towels until needed. In the hot pan cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another 1 minute. Add the beans, molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegars and spices. Stir beans to blend, cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 1 hour. Test beans to be sure they are tender and cooked. If needed, add up to another 1/2 cup of ketchup to make them more saucy.
Baked beans can be enjoyed hot or warm and re-heat well if you have leftovers.
Helpful links you might enjoy:
Dried bean cooking method from Rancho Gordo
Quick soaking method at Epicurious.com
More dried bean recipes from Rancho Gordo
Mom’s Chili Bean recipe from Simply Recipes
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