Along with a bunch of other tasty, healthy treats, I made baked beans for Superbowl Sunday.
It was my daughter’s specific request, so how could I say no? My recipe is pretty much the same one my mother made while I was growing up, and it’s the bomb. If I do say so myself. If the only beans you’ve ever had is the kind that comes from a can, you owe it to yourself to make these. Not only is it delicious, it’s also fool proof: all you have to do is soak the beans, and then throw everything in a crock pot and leave it on all day. That’s it!
These beans are full of flavor and smell DIVINE while they’re cooking. They’ll drive you nuts waiting for them to be done.
It’s not exactly completely an anti-inflammation friendly recipe, because it does have molasses in it. There is no way I can imagine baked beans without molasses, though, so I haven’t even tried to figure out a way to leave it out. I’ve decided that the small amount of molasses I eat in these beans won’t kill me.
And, besides, molasses – though it’s made from cane sugar – isn’t the worst sweetener in the world. Molasses is what’s left over after the white sugar crystals – most of the sucrose – has been extracted from the sugar cane, leaving behind a ton of healthy nutrients. Light molasses – the molasses that’s left after the first extraction of sugar – still has a fair bit of sucrose in it, so you want to go for at least dark molasses (what’s left after the second extraction), and preferably blackstrap molasses (what’s left after the third extraction.) Blackstrap molasses is 55% sucrose. (As opposed to white sugar, which is 100% sucrose.)
So, after the nutritionally void, addictive, straight sucrose has been removed from the sugar cane in the form of white crystalized sugar, what’s left behind? This site shows a thorough nutritional profile, but in particular the resulting blackstrap molasses becomes an excellent source of manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B6 – along with other vitamins and minerals in smaller quantities.
So, I’m thinking that a little bit of that stuff in my beans isn’t really so bad!
The only thing that makes these beans inconvenient is that you have to think ahead. This isn’t something you can throw together at the last minute, because they take a while to cook. So, the night before you plan to eat these, you need to put a pound of dry navy beans in a pot with 8 cups of water, cover, and let it sit overnight, or at least 8 hours.
If you’re really in a hurry, technically you can speed things up by doing the following: Instead of soaking overnight, bring the water to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for an hour, and then proceed with the recipe. However, if you have the time, soak them instead. The long soak makes them better for your digestive system than the sped up version.
After they’ve soaked (whichever method you use), drain and rinse the beans in a colander, then return the beans to the pot. Stir in 8 cups of fresh water, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.
Drain the beans, pouring some of the liquid into a heat-proof container like a Pyrex measuring cup. Put the beans in a 2 1/2 quart casserole, or in a crock pot, along with all the rest of the ingredients.
Green pepper, onion, bacon or salt pork, molasses, garlic, and spices – mmmm! Mix it all up together.
The original recipe called for 1/4 cup brown sugar, which I left out. If you think you want it sweeter, you can add in 1/4 cup real maple syrup.
The real secret to what makes these beans good – and something that I’ve changed from the way my mother used to make it – is…(drumroll)…liquid smoke!
It’s usually found in the condiments aisle, and I really don’t have any idea where it stands on the “real food” scale of things. It’s made by trapping wood smoke in condensation, and adds that perfect smoky barbecue flavor to the beans.
So, either cover the casserole dish and put it in the oven, or turn on the crock pot. Let the beans cook for about 5 hours, or until the beans are completely cooked through and soft. My recipe says to cook for 2 1/2 hours, but I’ve NEVER had them be done that soon. It’s always been more like 5 hours. If it’s in the crock pot you can pretty much just let it go, but if it’s in the oven you’ll want to check it occasionally to make sure it’s not too dry. If it is, you’ll want to add in some of the reserved bean liquid.
I don’t have a picture of what the beans looked like after they came out of the oven, because by that time my company had arrived. And after they all left all that was left was this.
So apparently my guests agreed with my “it’s the bomb” assessment about this recipe!
I think you will too!
(I installed this printable recipe feature – what do you think?)
- 1 lb dry navy beans or dry great Northern beans (about 2⅓ cups)
- ¼ lb bacon or salt pork, cut in small pieces (UNCURED AND NITRATE FREE!)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses, preferably blackstrap but at least dark
- ¼ cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B (optional)
- ⅛ cup liquid smoke
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- The night before you plan to eat the beans, combine the beans with 8 cups water in a large pot. Cover and let sit overnight, or at least 8 hours. (Alternately, you can bring the water to a boil, turn the heat down, and let simmer for 2 two minutes, then cover and let sit for 1 hour. It's best for your digestion to soak overnight, though.)
- After soaking, drain and rinse the beans in a colander, and then return them to the pot with 8 cups fresh water. Cover and simmer 1½ hours, or until slightly tender. Drain the beans, reserving some of the liquid in a heat-proof container. (I use a Pyrex measuring cup.)
- In a 2½ quart casserole dish or crock pot, combine the beans with all the other ingredients. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved bean liquid. If you think you'll want it sweeter, add in the maple syrup as well. (You can wait and taste it after it's been cooking for a couple hours before you decide.)
- If cooking in the oven, cover the dish and put in the oven heated to 300. If making in a crock pot, cover and set the heat to high. Cook for about 5 hours, or until the beans are completely soft. (If leaving the beans in the crockpot for longer, like overnight or all day, put the heat on low.) If baking in the oven, check it occasionally to make sure it's not drying out, and add some more bean liquid if necessary.