Memories make foods taste better, that’s a fact. Case in point are these simple baked beans that my late mom used to parade out for BBQ’s in the Summer and special occasions where she was the “caterer”. Now before you go getting food snob on me I must tell you that these are made with canned beans. If that offends you..this is not your recipe. HOWEVER I will tell you that they are fantastic and unless your tastebuds just do not care for American baked bean dishes, you HAVE to make a tray of these. Delicious and addictive. Now truth be told it’s not EXACT to my Mom’s. It’s close. My Food Snobbery actually embellishes the dish without recipe OVERKILL. I think Mom would be proud, happy, and like them. Basically I don’t add anything different then she did, but I add more of a few things. Now keep reading and you’ll find out. Back in May for Memorial Day my sister Liza made them. I saw the pan and of course got a lump in my throat wishing my Mom was in the kitchen with us. “These are Mommy’s party and BBQ in the back yard cabana (it was a screened in porch deal) Baked Beans aren’t they?” My sister replied, yes they are. They had that deep rich color with the bacon top that Mom’s did. Unmistakably these were Mom’s. For some reason, you don’t make these for just a nightly dinner. Instead they are festive…party buffet food…Summer BBQ in the backyard food. I’m sure there are foods/dishes that you all love that remind you of a now gone loved one and memories of good times. In my very ItalianAmerican home this version of American Baked Beans meant a good time or big party was happening. Oh, I also changed the brand of beans, Mom used Campbells..most available, most popular. This was in the pre Bush’s Beans days… B & M was the most expensive competition. My wife LOVES B & M so for a family party last week I made a tray using the B & M beans. So I’m not straying from her formula..too much. AND here’s the proof..my sisters saw them and said …”AHHH MOM’S!!” Then confirm too (as if my own tastebuds are not the last word LOL), my 46 year old nephew PROCLAIMED, “Wow, Grandma’s Baked Beans..it’s been too long..Spot on Uncle Pete”.. Just an FYI, when Mom made REAL BAKED BEANS, not for parties or BBQ, she’d soak the dry beans and layer them with salt pork and other ingrdients and in a New England Bean Pot, covered into the oven they’d go for hours. That’s a different dish of hers. OK, let’s cook.
MOM’S “PARTY” OR BBQ BAKED BEANS
TIME: 2 hours SERVES: 8-10
12 STRIPS OF BACON
1 MEDIUM VIDALIA ONION (SWEET) DICED
2 28 oz CANS B & M BAKED BEANS (no, i’m not getting sponsored here, it’s what I use, so….if you like use any other 28 oz cans of beans)
2 TBS BROWN MUSTARD
1/4 cup KETCHUP
1/8 CUP BROWN SUGAR
1 TBS MOLASSES
1/2 TSP TABASCO SAUCE
1 TSP WORCHESTERSHIRE SAUCE
2 TSP REAL MAPLE SYRUP
Start by pre heating your oven to 300 degrees F. Dice 5 slices of the bacon and in a cast iron or heavy pan, saute’ the bacon on medium heat. When you see bacon grease rendering into the pan then add the onions. Stir well to make sure the bacon grease is on all the onion. Let this slowly cook until the bacon is just about to the crisp stage and the onions are soft. Takes at least 15 minutes, more or less.
Remove from the heat when it looks like that picture above and drain off all that residual bacon fat. Let it rest. In a bowl or simply the baking pan you’re going to use add everything else except the remaining bacon strips and blend well. THEN fold in the bacon/onion mixture. Top with the bacon strips.
Now into the oven for 1 1/2 hours. TIP: place the pan on a sheet pan. JUST in case there’s bubbling and spillage, this tomato and sugar and bacon blend will make a nasty mess if it hits the bottom of your oven. The sheet pan is insurance. Pay your premium!!
When the pan looks like the picture below, you are done. Resist the urge to move it along with a higher oven temp. Your BAKING the beans. They will taste and feel different than if you simple heat them up out of the can.
Let the hot beans sit for 15 minutes at least before serving. Now, here’s one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE things to eat. See those bacon strips? They are ridiculously amazing…is that even proper grammar? I don’t care. It’s amazing. Make sure you sneak a few before the rest of the diners get to dig in. You made it, you deserve it. I can probably show you when my Mom used to slap my hand when she’d catch me lifting a strip before they were served. My sister and I would always fight over them. If you notice in the ingredient list there is no SALT or PEPPER added. Why? You are using canned beans in tomato sauce cooked with Pork, salt, seasonings, etc. You are using bacon which releases salt into the baking beans. Ketchup, mustard,Worchestershire all have salt so DO NOT ADD ANY MORE TO THIS DISH. The sweet caramelizing of the dish balances the salty in it..IT’S FANTASTIC. Maybe because it’s a direct link to MOM? or simply because it just tastes that good?? I conclude, it’s both. Happy Cooking.