Snappy Pot of Beans at the End of the Rainbow

I love baked beans and I still can’t get them quite the way my dad used to.  Eventually I decided to stop trying and struck out on my own quest for a pot of beans at the end of my imaginary rainbow.  The final improvement to these came from an issue of America’s Test Kitchen and made all the difference.  They are still not the same, but they are definitely good!  Also, this has the potential to be a vegan recipe and goes relatively well with tofu dogs for something almost resembling a traditional New England Baked Bean Dinner.  Corn Bread or Biscuits really round this out nicely.

Typically I will use Navy or Kidney beans.  So far, I have found this works with every bean I have tried, though the flavor and texture does vary.  This allows for some experimentation to find a bean that really grabs your … attention.

  • 1C beans soaked overnight (usually use a 1lb package)
  • 1T crisco or similar shortening
  • 2T molasses
  • 1 medium onion chopped (sometimes, I do 2 or a large)
  • 1t salt (or to taste)
  • 1t pepper (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 250F – 300F (depending on how long you want to cook them).  Place beans in a large, oven-save vessel such as a dutch oven and make sure they are covered with about 2-inches of water.  Stir in all other ingredients.  Bake at 250-300 for 6-8 hours.  Check every hour.  DO NOT stir.  Ensure the beans are at least -just barely- covered with water, adding a little more is okay.

  • 1T molasses
  • 1t cider vinegar

When they are baked, remove from oven and add 1T molasses and 1t cider vinegar.  This adds a nice snap that makes the beans very flavorful.

Alternatively, the recipe I got from America’s Test Kitchen is as follows, and is very good as well.

  • 1lb package beans
  • 1/2c molasses
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2c mustard (brown is best, yellow will do)
  • 9c water
  • 1/3c bacon fat (or similar — goal is a flavorful fat) [1]
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 300F.  In a large, oven-safe pot, sautee onion in fat.  Add all ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Bake at 300F for 4-1/2 hours.  Stir.  Bake for another 1 hour uncovered.  Remove from oven.

  • 1T molasses
  • 1t cider vinegar

Stir in molasses and vinegar.  Serve.

[1] I would experiment with alternative fats and find the smokey flavor from paprika or even cumin (conservatively!).


3 thoughts on “Snappy Pot of Beans at the End of the Rainbow

  1. “Liquid Smoke” is a great way to imitate bacon-type flavor if one is looking to avoid use of animal products. Smoked paprika (not hot or sweet) works well, too, as does chipotle (or another, similarly smoked pepper, although chipotle is the most smokey I’ve found) powder.

    I should get my Dad’s four bean recipe. I don’t think he’s made it in 25 years or more.

    • I read about liquid smoke, and there are a number of concerns about the carcinogenic nature of it. For as little as I would use it, I don’t think I would be overly concerned. However, I think my first stop would be smoked paprika or chipotle.

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