Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans

August 2nd, 2008  |  Published in All, Legumes, Most Popular, Onion, Veritable Vegetables, Weeknight Recipes  |  9 Comments

Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans

About eight years ago I spent a summer in Alaska living in a tent.  It was a 7 mile walk to the closest town (Wasilla), and the only company I had was the mosquitoes and the occasional moose that would wander through my camp.  I would strap on my internal frame backpack, walk into town, fill it with groceries, and if I was lucky, I’d hitch a ride back out to where I was camped.

Money was tight, and so my meals were simple affairs.  At least three times a week I would eat — you guessed it — baked beans.  Mixed with some rice, and served with a couple of raw carrots on the side, I had a fairly well balanced, easy meal that was entirely acceptable to me while I was out in the wilderness.  Whatever I didn’t finish in the evening I would reheat in the morning for a filling breakfast, sprinkled with a bit of additional sugar and cinnamon — believe it or not, at the time I found it delicious.

So you might think that after subsisting on baked beans and rice for a summer I would never want to touch another baked bean in my life.  Not so!  Well, sort of — after that summer I was pretty much done with canned baked beans;  I started a quest to find a delicious, not too complicated homemade baked beans recipe.

This one is an amalgamation of many different recipes I’ve tried, combining the best parts of my trials.  First of all, this recipe is straight-forward and simple;  second, it tastes great!  it’s a little spicy and has a touch of sweetness, but not too much;  the sauce has a nice consistency (not gummy, not soupy), and most of all, you can actually taste the beans.

Anyhow, these beans are great on their own or served on top a piece of toasted rye bread (mmmm……).  And of course, you can always mix baked beans with rice :)

Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans
serves 2-3

2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces*
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 – 3/4 c.)
1 T. tomato paste
1/3 c. water
3 T. brown sugar
1.5 T. Worcestershire sauce
1.5 T. prepared yellow mustard
1 t. Tobasco sauce
1 15oz can organic pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Saute bacon in a medium-large skillet until crisp.  Drain on a paper towel.  Pour off all but about 1/2 T. of the bacon grease (I save bacon drippings in a jar in the refrigerator — it’s wonderful to cook with and eliminates the problem of what to do with it).  Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft.

Add tomato paste, water, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, mustard and tobasco.  Stir to mix well.  Add pinto beans and reserved bacon then stir until evenly mixed.

Transfer mixture to a small oven-proof casserole dish (about 2-1/2 c. capacity is a perfect size), or into individual ramekins.  Baked for 20 minutes, until mixture is bubbly.  Remove from oven, stir, and enjoy!

*Note: Try to find ethically sourced meat products (i.e. local, organic, pasture-raised).  Many farmer’s markets are starting to have meat purveyors — check there or at your local organic grocery store

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