Saturday, January 11, 2014

Honey Baked Beans

Honey Baked Beans and Bacon-wrapped Franks, Eat Up!
Photograph by A. Schloss

Baked beans come from an age when cooking food all day (or for several days) over a low fire was commonplace. There was no sautéed boneless chicken breast or food processor pesto to speed up meal prep, and because the cooks who baked those beans were planting crops while dinner simmered, an untended pot of baking beans was the very essence of convenience cuisine.

Steamy Beans
Photograph by A. Schloss
When cooking slow was the norm there was not a great deal of distinction made between simmering beans and baking them. Whether you hung your Dutch oven over the fire (the equivalent of simmering) or buried it in embers (similar to baking) made little matter. Today those two methods are done in separate parts of the kitchen, one on a stove top and the other in an oven, so the techniques come off as radically different, even though the results are nearly identical. 

This recipe for Honey Baked Beans is a riff on the Bourbon-Bacon Beans on page 100 of Cooking Slow. Those beans are slowly simmered on a  back burner. In this recipe I have given directions for both simmering and baking. Choose the one that fits your schedule and equipment best.

I have also shifted the flavor profile away from the classic brown sugar-tomato lip-smack in favor of something lighter and more subtle. The pungency of molasses has given way to floral honey, and the ubiquitous baked bean ketchup-mustard-vinegar sauce has been lightened up, relying on an infusion of herbs and chicken broth for a whiff of laid back savory satisfaction.   

Honey Baked Beans

Simmered Honey Baked Beans
Photograph by A. Schloss
Makes 12 servings

1 lb/455 g dried white beans such as Great Northern 
3 slices thick-sliced bacon, finely diced
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 roasted bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced 
2 tablespoons Chef Salt Tuscan Herb or other Italian seasoning
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
One 14 1/2-oz/415-g can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/3 cup/75 ml honey
1 cup / 240 ml white wine
2 cups/480 ml good-quality low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup/180 ml apple juice or cider
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Fully hydrated beans
Photograph A. Schloss
Pick over the beans for stones or grit. Rinse in a colander and drain well. Put the beans in a Dutch oven and add water to cover by about 3 in/7.5 cm. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until hydrated, about 1 hour. A bean cut in half should be moist all of the way through. Drain and set aside.  

Put the Dutch oven back over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat renders out, about 15 minutes. Don’t rush it; the bacon should be cooked but not crisp.

Everything in the pot, ready to cook
Photograph by A. Schloss
Add the onion, roasted pepper, and seasoning, and cook until the onion is tender and the spices are aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for 1 minute longer.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, the molasses, sugar, chicken broth, bourbon, mustard, and soy sauce, stir to mix well, and bring to a simmer. Add the pre-cooked beans, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer until tender and flavorful, about 4 hours. Or bake in a 250°F/120°C oven for 8 to 10 hours. Serve immediately, or let cool, refrigerate overnight, and reheat gently to serve the next day, after the flavors have deepened even more.


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: about 5 hours (mostly unattended)

Store: for up to 1 week, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently over low heat or in a low oven.

Baked Honey Baked Beans
Photograph by A. Schloss


  1. What would I be able to say in regards to these prepared beans. I've had them a couple times and I simply feel they are horrendous all around. They are far too sweet and the essence of nectar simply doesn't blend with beans. On the off chance that you have a sweet tooth you presumably shouldn't investigate heated beans. Beans ought to be more on the exquisite side of the flavor range. This simply doesn't work for me in any case. I truly don't comprehend why individuals like them.

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