Baked beans quest
I'm looking for a really good baked bean recipe. Whenever I taste a good batch, I remember how much I like them, and realize I've never spent much time trying to make them myself.
I like when the are hearty, but still a side dish, not too insanely sweat.
To do this right, I'm not even sure where to start. I'd love to see some great recipes or ideas.
My favorite one thus far comes from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. its super basic, and flavorful. I even omit the meat, and it turns out thick, but not pasty, sweet and savoury and a tad spicy. the beans hold their shape and are good and tender. it calls for molasses, but i use maple syrup in a pinch, and have even used a bit of jam, and a bit of ketchup and spices such as curry powder, and chopped onions. (i've added a bit of garlic too)
in the end, they're actually vegan when i omit the ham hock/bacon
I start out with dried great northerns or navy beans..i've even used pintos. get them all soaked and cooked and then add in the sauce and onions (leaving some out for periodic wetting) and sloooooooow bake for as long as possible...about 4 hrs or more...
the one thing i've discovered is that the texture is infinitely better when i bake in something like a pyrex casserole/container, similarly, stoneware or ceramic...the cast iron pot makes the beans entirely too thick as it stays too hot.
Try to find yellow-eye beans (Steuben yellow-eye, or molasses-eye/face, calypso, et cet.) - they are the probably the original bean baked this way in New England and have a somewhat thinner skin and I think have more flavor than navy/pea/great northern beans. Get them online for very fresh beans - it makes a difference.
When you parboil beans, they are done when you can blow open the skin with a sharp breath. The classic and perfect test.
Bake them in a 250F oven for 8+ hours - you can adjust for sweetness and uncover for the last hour.
An earthenware that tapers in with a tapered cover is the best - it recycles the water vapor better than metal pots because of the varying thicknesses that are missing in metal.
Baking them overnight and having them for breakfast on a winter morning is da bomb.
I prefer maple syrup to molasses as the sweetener.
PS: IF salt pork (which is classic) turns you off and you prefer bacon, use Schaller & Weber double-smoked bacon; cut into large chunks.