As you plan your Fourth of July menu, consider the All-American dish: baked beans. Most of us don't take the time to bake them, so a lazy 4th of July is a good day to savor an American favorite.
There are so many ways to prepare baked beans beginning with dry beans or canned beans flavored with sugar, brown sugar, or molasses and slow baked in the oven.
Boston baked beans are probably the most famous because this dish has been made since colonial days, when the city was a major producer of rum, according to The Good Home Cookbook edited by Richard Perry (Collector's Press, $29.95). Sugar cane harvested in the West Indes was turned into molasses and shipped to Boston to be made into rum, which was then sent to West Africa.
In Mr. Perry's cookbook, Boston Baked Beans and Midwestern Baked Beans begin with dried navy or great northern beans, respectively. The Midwestern beans has tomato sauce and chili sauce, a style which has been popularized by manufacturers of canned baked beans.
To make Vermont style baked beans, use the Boston Baked Beans recipe but replace the molasses with pure maple syrup and adjust the seasonings with more salt, pepper, and onion.
The Pilgrims found the Indians baking beans in 1620, according to The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman. The Indians soaked their beans, then baked them overnight with deer fat and onions in a clay pot. Pilgrim women, who could not cook on Sunday for religious reasons, baked beans the night before. Later pork replaced deer fat and brown sugar and seasoning were added.
Once canned beans were popularized, a variety of ingredients and seasonings were used. More importantly the cooking time was reduced to one hour or less.
Many versions use barbecue sauce as an ingredient. Another ingredient that turns up frequently is pop.
A&W Boston Baked Beans is made with 1/2 cup A&W Root Beer, 4 strips cooked and crumbled bacon, 1 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 2 cans drained pinto beans, 1 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons chili powder and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
In Joey Green's Mealtime Magic (Rodale, $22.95), 7 Up Baked Beans is made with 2 cans (16 ounces each) pork and beans, 1 can tomato soup, 2 strips bacon, 1/2 cup 7 Up, 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard and 2 teaspoons liquid smoke, optional. This is baked in a 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
While some recipes use pinto beans or navy beans, increasingly popular is the idea of using at least three kinds of beans in a dish of baked beans.
Crock Rocken' Beans is a slow cooker recipe made with Faygo Rock & Rye. (See page 2 for recipe.) The recipe from Centennial Recipe Book - Celebrating 100 Years 1907-2007 uses a variety of canned beans: black beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, lima beans, and pork and beans with sauce. (The booklet can be ordered online at www.faygo.com for about $10.)
Faygo is celebrating it's 100th anniversary. In 1907 Faygo was founded by Ben and Perry Feigenson, immigrant bakers from Russia. It began in the Feigenson Brothers' Bottling Works in Detroit. The flavors were based on cake decorating. The entrepreneurs were credited with coining the term "Pop" for their soda because of the sound made when opening the bottle. The company expanded its business with a large facility on Gratiot Avenue in 1937, which is the bottling plant and headquarters today.
Part of the appeal of baked beans is that it goes well with meat, poultry, and side dishes. It also can become part of the dish as in Summer Baked Beans with Grilled Pork Chops using canned beans and fresh corn.
For a vegetarian entree, Grilled Portobello Stacks use vegetarian canned beans. The clever idea of putting a baked bean mixture inside the grilled portobello and finishing it on the grill is also an attractive presentation. This makes a great side dish or an entree.
Country Style Quesadillas is also a vegetarian dish if desired. Tortillas are topped with baked beans, cheese, chilies, scallions, cilantro, and sour cream, folded over, and grilled until the cheese is melted.
Anyway you make them, baked beans are a great addition to a picnic or potluck menu.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.