Not Your Average Baked Beans

As serving of (slightly over baked) baked beans, with broccoli.

Bush Brothers and Company is a family-owned corporation best known for its Bush’s Best brand canned baked beans. The company produces approximately 80 percent of the canned baked beans consumed in the United States, representing estimated annual sales in excess of $400 million and the processing of more than 55 million pounds of beans per year.

When I set out to make this recipe, I was looking at Bush’s Baked Beans copycat recipes. In the end, I decided not to use that in the title because I don’t think I wound up very close (choosing just one of the however many different flavors Bush’s makes might have helped). I suppose I really should have done a side by side taste test with my recipe and a can of Bush’s Best. Also, I don’t really need a giant corporation breathing down my neck for using their name, so we’ll keep it out of the title.

Although I don’t know that it comes close to replicating any one variety of Bush’s baked beans, it is quite delicious, even though I over baked it by sticking to the times I put in my recipe instead of using my judgement to decide when the sauce had reduced enough. Lesson learned, and the recipe I share with you will be modified to reflect that.

These probably aren’t much healthier than a can of Bushes (who knows how much sugar is in 1 ¾ cups of ketchup, before you even add more brown sugar, molasses AND maple syrup), but flavor wise, this is up there with my Quick Baked Beans (ironically, I see that I left those in the oven too long as well), but starts with raw beans instead of using canned beans as the base. I was a little skeptical that the 4 ½ Tablespoons of chili powder wouldn’t overwhelm the dish and turn int into chili beans, but I didn’t need to worry; it adds a nice heat to the dish, but the baked bean flavors of ketchup and molasses still dominate.

If you’re looking to make baked beans from scratch that actually resemble canned baked beans, this is probably a good starting point. Just don’t leave them in the oven too long.

Not Your Average Baked Beans

Serves: 6-8
Prep: 30 Minutes
Cook: 3:00-4:00
Total: 3:30-4:30, plus 90 minutes soaking time.

1 lb great northern beans
1 lb. navy beans
4 cubes chicken or beef bouillon 

5 oz thick sliced bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces
¼ cup onion, diced
½ cup leeks, sliced

⅔ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons black pepper
1 ¼ teaspoons mustard powder
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
4 ½ Tablespoons chili powder
¾ teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup molasses
½ cup maple syrup
3 ⅓ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 ¾ cups ketchup
½ cup tomato sauce
1 ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup cornstarch
5 cups water

⅓ cup apple juice
3 Quarts water + 3 Tablespoons salt, for soaking beans (skip bouillon cubes and soak overnight instead of quick soak)
4 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet browning and seasoning sauce
5 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard, in place of ground
3 oz. salt pork, in place of bacon
2 teaspoons white vinegar, in place of cider vinegar
2 cups tomato juice
¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Pick over your beans and remove any bad beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain, and put in a large pot, with enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and leave to soak for 1 ½ hours. 

Drain the beans and return them to the pan, along with the bouillon cubes and enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes, until beans are just tender. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. 

Put the bacon in a skillet over medium heat and cook until it starts to render. Add the onion and leeks, and cook until the onion is soft and the bacon begins to crisp. Drain off any excess fat and set aside. 

Combine brown sugar, spices, molasses, maple syrup, vinegar, ketchup, tomato sauce and liquid smoke in a sauce pan. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with about ½ cup of the water, making sure there are no lumps. before adding it to the pan, along with remaining water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until the brown sugar is dissolved.

When the beans are just tender, drain them and put them in the prepared baking dish, along with the bacon and onions. Pour the sauce over the beans and stir. It will be quite soupy at this stage, but it will reduce down to a nice sauce as it bakes. Cover with foil and bake for 2 ½ hours. Check every hour or so and give it a stir. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency and the top is nicely browned, about 30-90 minutes longer. 

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