baked beans

As with other heirloom fruits and vegetables, no two heirloom beans are alike. They all have different flavors and recipes they jive best in. You may know to use kidney beans in Mom’s chili, or white beans in Uncle Anthony’s Sicilian sausage stew, but what about baked beans? Maximize the flavor potential of the heirloom beans you’re cooking with, and enjoy a little taste of old-fashioned country living. Here are four baked bean recipes featuring heirloom beans.

Each of the recipes below will yield anywhere from 6 to 8 servings, depending on how much your dinner guests love baked beans (I could eat a whole bowl of beans for dinner any ol’ night!). Follow our standard for pre-cooking the dried beans first, then proceed as usual with the “baking” part of the recipes.

I recommend you toss these in the oven to cook around dinner or dessert time, then once they’re done baking (about 3 hours), leave them to hang out in the oven overnight for their flavors to get even richer and more developed.

Jacob’s Cattle Bacon Baked Beans

Also called a Trout bean or an Appaloosa bean, Jacob’s Cattle is plump and robust, with a strong flavor that holds up well to long cooking and bold flavors. Bring out its depth with smoky bacon, spicy mustards and a bit of ginger.

Ingredients

1 pound dried Jacob’s Cattle beans, cooked, cooking liquid reserved
½ pound smoked bacon, chopped
1 cup finely diced onion
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 teaspoon dried ginger
Sea salt, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine all ingredients in a large oven-safe stockpot or casserole dish. Add about 4 cups of reserved bean cooking liquid; it should be enough to cover all ingredients completely. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 hours, stirring every hour and adding a bit of extra reserved bean cooking liquid as needed to prevent drying out. Serve warm.

Boston Baked Beans with York State Beans

Also called Boston beans or pea beans, York State beans are quintessential to classic Boston baked beans—just add ample onion, sweetener and molasses to round out the typical recipe.

Ingredients

1 pound dried York State beans, cooked, cooking liquid reserved
1 pound salt pork, cubed
1 medium onion, quartered
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine all ingredients in a large oven-safe stockpot or casserole dish. Add about 4 cups of reserved bean cooking liquid; it should be enough to cover all ingredients completely. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 hours, stirring every hour and adding a bit of extra reserved bean cooking liquid as needed to prevent drying out. Serve warm.

Baked Pinquito Beans

These heirloom beans were a staple of early American cuisine on the West Coast. It’s said that they were the premier bean used in California community dinners and baked bean recipes. They’re plump, firm and are very versatile, especially in Mexican-inspired dishes.

Ingredients

1 pound dried Santa Maria Pinquito beans, cooked, half of cooking liquid reserved
½ pound thick-cut bacon, cubed
2 cups diced tomatoes or fresh salsa
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Method

Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large oven-safe stockpot or casserole dish. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 hours, stirring every hour and adding a bit of extra bean cooking liquid as needed to prevent drying out. Serve warm with fresh cilantro.

Baked Great Northern White Beans

Great Northern White beans are delicate, white beans often used in Italian and French recipes, or anytihng featuring fresh herbs and light flavors form the garden. Here’s a baked bean recipe that really heralds this spring-fresh bean.

Ingredients

1 pound Great Northern White beans, cooked, cooking liquid reserved
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Method

Combine all ingredients except parsley in a large oven-safe stockpot or casserole dish. Add about 4 cups of reserved bean cooking liquid; it should be enough to cover all ingredients completely. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 hours, stirring every hour and adding a bit of extra reserved bean cooking liquid as needed to prevent drying out. Serve warm.

Image: jeffreyw