I was a bit premature in heralding the beginning of spring. The day after my last post, the temperature plummeted and it snowed. Not much, but enough to make one want to turn on the oven and start cooking up a feast of warm comfort food. I've been making all sorts of bean dishes, but had not yet recreated the old classic from my hometown: Boston baked beans. Now that I've sampled our complete collection of heirloom beans from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA, I had the feeling that the Ireland Creek Annie beans, with their hearty but mild flavor and lovely brown sauce, would work well in this dish.
I started by cooking some chopped bacon in a Dutch oven until just crispy.
Then in about 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat, I sauteed a diced onion, minced garlic, and some cumin, paprika, and brown sugar.
Meanwhile, I mixed up a sauce of ketchup, mustard, molasses, and vinegar, which I added to the pot, along with 4 cups of hot water and 2 cups of rinsed Ireland Creek Annie beans.
These went into a low 250 degree oven to bake, covered, for about 3 1/2 hours, alongside a roasting ham. Along the way, I also baked some acorn squash sprinkled with spices and toasted their seeds in some olive oil and salt. Once the beans were just soft, I salted them, uncovered the pot, turned up the oven to 400 degrees, and cooked them for another half hour until the bean liquid evaporated down to a syrupy, bubbling sauce, the ham glaze caramelized, and a pan of macaroni and cheese developed a toasted top of parmesan bread crumbs. We had quite a feast. The baked beans were delicious with just the right mixture of sweet and sour flavors.
Ireland Creek Annie Baked Beans
2 cups (1 lb) Ireland Creek Annie beans, or substitute light kidney beans
4 strips bacon
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup cider vinegar
4 cups water, heated
salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut the bacon into small strips (most easily done with scissors) and saute in an over proof pot until the strips are fairly crispy. Reserve the bacon and drain off all but about 2 Tbsp bacon fat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and brown sugar and saute for another couple of minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the ketchup, mustard, molasses, and vinegar. Pour this mixture into the pot. Rince the mixing cup with some of the hot water and add this and the remaining water to the pot. Add the rinsed beans and bacon bits, mix and heat the contents of the pot to a simmer. Then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
2. Cook the beans in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, but not falling apart. Add a little more water if they get too dry during the cooking process. Raise the heat to 400 degrees, remove the top, add salt if needed, and cook for another half hour until the sauce becomes thick and caramelized.
Other recipes for heirloom beans:
Flageolet bean salad with fennel, orange, and tapenade
Arikara beans with roasted fennel and peppers