Saturday, January 25, 2014

Small Quantity Baked Beans

A cold winter day means staying in and cooking something that takes all day. For people who cook more like Grandma than Julia Child or Martha Stewart, baked beans come to mind. They have no class and are easy to make. They have no exotic ingredients or complicated procedures. They are far better than the canned variety.

I like good home made baked beans. Once upon a time I made them in quantities large enough to feed my family of seven people. Now I live alone so I have reduced the recipe to an amount that will feed one or two. As today’s politicians would say, it has evolved. In other words, it is changed but still recognizable. It won’t be hanging around in your refrigerator for a week unless you choose not to eat.

Remember the poem Snowbound? “The sun that brief December day rose cheerless over skies of gray…”  That’s today but in January. It’s Saturday. It’s very cold outside. It’s a good day to stay home and think about what to do next after doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and mindlessly engaging with Facebook. The good thing about making baked beans is that you can do other things while you wait all those hours for the beans to bake.

It might be possible to start with canned navy beans, but I have never been a fan of them so make no guarantees.

Small quantity Baked Beans

½ cup dry beans such as navy beans or great northern beans
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not the imitation kind and not any old kind of pancake syrup)
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ typical yellow onion (approximately)
1 slice bacon (optional)

Soak beans overnight, or not, as you choose. Cook the beans, covered, in about 2 cups of water at a simmer for one hour, or until they are soft and start to break apart. Don’t drain them. Put them in a baking dish that holds a quart or less.  Stir together the salt, syrup and mustard and add to the baking dish. Cut the onion into smallish pieces and put in the dish. Cut the bacon into half inch slices and add to the dish. Stir everything together to distribute it thoroughly. Add hot water to almost cover it. Cover the dish and bake for 6 – 8 hours at 285 degrees. Add water during the process if the beans cook dry. Uncover the dish for the last half hour of baking.

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