Sorry, Bush’s, but commercial baked beans are a sorry lot. They should be called “candied beans” for the amount of sugar in them.
While baked beans are supposed to have a savory-sweet flavor, the canned varieties we’ve tried really overdo the sweet part.
So eschew the canned beans. For Labor Day Weekend or any other festive occasion, bake your own.
Unlike one-dimensional canned baked beans, this recipe from DeLallo is layered with flavor from balsamic vinegar, beer and pancetta.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.
2. COOK the pancetta in a heavy, large, oven-safe pot over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.
3. ADD the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
4. MIX in the beer, tomato purée, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the beans and bring to a simmer.
While beans have been cultivated worldwide since ancient times, the different types of beans used to make baked beans are native to South America, brought to Europe by Spanish explorers around 1528.
What Americans call baked beans traces the recipe to different regions, each of which had its own twist on the recipe.
While many recipes today are actually stewed, rather than baked, beans, traditionally the beans are slow-baked in a ceramic or cast-iron pot.
In New England and elsewhere, a beanpot was used to bake the beans (photo #2).
A beanpot is a deep, wide-bellied, short-necked ceramic pots. The relatively narrow mouth of the beanpot minimizes evaporation and heat loss, while its deep, wide, thick-walled body facilitates long, slow cooking times.
Boston is called Beantown by outsiders (sailors and traders), referring to the popular dish, Boston baked beans. Originating in Colonial days, the dish was made with molasses or maple syrup, and flavored with salt pork or bacon.
With the advent of canned food in the mid-1800s, canned baked beans were among the first convenience foods, called “pork and beans” or “beans with pork.”
Then as now, the pork component is typically a piece of salt pork fat [source].
Check out the history of beans.
*Pancetta is Italian back bacon, available smoked or unsmoked. By comparison, American “streaky bacon,” also available smoked or unsmoked, is cut from the belly of the pig—one of the fattiest parts of the animal. Check out the different types of bacon.
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