Be honest. You, at least once in your lifetime, have eaten baked beans from a can. Don’t be shy, it’s ok, really. I’m right there with you. And as much as I enjoy doctoring up a can of baked beans to our liking, I’ve been dying to make homemade baked beans for the past couple of summers. Unfortunately, I’ve been eying this particular recipe, which a la typical Ina recipe, makes a lot of food which isn’t conducive to feeding just two people. So last 4th of July (2008), I vowed that I would bring these homemade baked beans to this year’s annual 4th of July party at my mother-in-law’s house.
Admittedly, these were a lot of work, taking in total approximately 19 hours of prep and cook time. But, they were most definitely worth it. I made 1 1/2x the amount of the written recipe and ended up having to bake the beans for 9 hours; the last 1 1/2 hours were uncovered to encourage thickening. I found that they needed some extra salt and I added an extra teaspoon. The only other thing I would change about this recipe the next time I make it is to use pinto beans rather than kidney beans. The kidney beans were just too big for my liking and it felt too close to eating chili rather than baked beans. Other than that, they were great and went over really well on the 4th with all of the usual suspects.
Maple Baked Beans
- 1 lb 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 tbsp Chinese chili paste
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 5 oz thick-cut smoked bacon, cubed
- Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 1 inch and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. 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 lip on top and bake for 6 to 8 hours. Check occasionally. if the bean are too dry, add 1/2 cup more of the cooking liquid. If you like, you can remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot.