One of the few ways to include a healthy diet in your lifestyle is by trying legumes, and baked beans is a great way to start it off. They come with a great combination of fiber and proteins, so if you want an easier way to find excellent vegetable content and low calories, here’s your chance. There has always been questions on how healthy baked beans are and maybe how often you can eat them. The truth is, baked beans are absolutely good for you, provided that you go for the right variety and also cook them properly.
Preparing these beans takes more than boiling because there’s a specific way you should prepare them in order to get nutrients of out your dish. Now here’s a nutshell: The process of making baked beans traditionally involves you baking them in tomato sauce, herbs, spices and to some extent additional foods like pork or potatoes.
Apart from the regular canned beans that you can find at the store, you can also make your baked beans at the comfort of your home. If you love being adventurous in the kitchen and would like to have yours home-made, you can try this America’s Test Kitchen baked beans recipe for a life changing cooking experience.
America’s Test Kitchen Baked Beans Recipe
Duration: 5 1⁄2 Hours
- 4 ounces salt pork, trimmed of rind and cut into 1⁄2 pieces
- 2 ounces bacon, cut into 1⁄4 pieces (about 2 slices)
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1⁄2 cup mild molasses
- 1 tbsp. mild molasses
- 11⁄2 tbsps. brown mustard
- 1 lb. small dried white beans
- 9 cups water
- 1 tsp. cider vinegar
- Ground black pepper
As with most baking recipes, we will be using the middle oven position. So adjust the rack and let the oven heat to 300 degrees. Place the pork and bacon slices in an 8-quart Dutch oven and cook on a medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until the fat is rendered and the slices have turned light brown. Ensure that you stir in the mixture after some time for the two to be evenly-browned.
After that, add the onions and continue cooking over medium heat as you also continue stirring occasionally until the onions are softened. This takes about 8 minutes. Once ready, add the 1⁄2 cup of molasses (save the tablespoon portion for later), dried beans, brown mustard, salt and water then increase the heat to medium-high and let the mixture boil. Doing this on the stovetop will definitely shorten the time it will take in the oven and so ensure that the mixture is already simmering before moving to the next step.
Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven and let the beans bake until tender for about 4 hours. Remember to stir in the mixture when halfway through cooking time for consistently baked beans. Once certain that the beans are tender enough, remove the Dutch oven lid and continue baking until you end up with a thick and consistent liquid. This is something you can do by just blowing over the beans in order to see the reaction on their skins. For properly-cooked beans, the skin usually tend to wrinkle and curl back the moment you blow on them. Remove the mixture from the oven and stir in the left molasses, vinegar, pepper and additional salt to taste.
Tips on How to Make the Best New England Baked Beans
After trying this recipe for a number of times, here are some hacks that have worked for me, the same which you can also try:
- Cooking time. This is probably one of those recipes that takes like forever, because I believe that within the 5 hours, you can do a number of quick fixes that really require less cooking time. However, the good news is that there’s a way you can save on the baking time so you don’t have to avoid having baked beans in your diet. This is simple; soak the beans overnight in salty water. Yes, what this does is speed the hydration process, which in the end leaves the skins softer. Which this, you’ll definitely have them baking for only a few hours and this way you can save an hour or two.
- Flavoring. This is open, considering that there’re those who prefer to have them plainly. When you prefer using them, ensure that they’re added earlier so that the beans get cooked in the rich flavor that you want. Just to take you back to the baking time, one of the reasons why beans take that long is also due to the acidity brought in by adding flavorings like molasses and vinegar. What this means is that if you add them after the beans are already softened, the duration becomes shorter. But on the other hand, the longer you wait to add the flavorings the lesser the penetration and so you might end up with pale and bland beans.
- Thick Sauce. Traditionally, baked beans are meant to be saucy and not soupy, something you can confirm by checking at what most canned beans brands offer. The trick is to know how to make it so, without necessarily adding in anything extra. One option is to cut down the volumes of water used when baking, so that you don’t end up with more left behind even after the beans are already properly cooked. However, it’s also important to have all the beans submerged in water so that their skins cook evenly. So, what you should do is simple: uncover the pot once the beans are fairly cooked as highlighted in the recipe, so that the sauce cooks down below the beans. It will also leave you with a beautifully-browned crust layer on the top.
- Beans to use. In the ingredients section, it was clearly highlighted that what you should use here are dried beans, actually, dried small white beans. Considering the cooking time, it’s not advisable to substitute dried beans with canned options because when you bake them for that long, they’ll turn out mushy to an extent that even the texture will be lost.This key ingredient is a plus, considering how affordable the variety is, and when you top that up with the nutritional value, you shouldn’t even look elsewhere. However, if you don’t mind the flavor, tradition and all that, you can also use your canned beans and cut on the cooking time by adding the same to already cooked pork and bacon, so that the mixture only bakes for a few minutes.
- Save energy. As seen, the recipe is for serving up to 10 people, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t come in handy when you’re hosting only a few people. To avoid the whole process of baking now and then, you can make yours in large quantities and save the rest of the batch for next time. This is a greater option especially for those who often have baked beans as a snack, which will be hectic if you have to prepare it every now and then. I mean, this will in the end strike your credit card in terms of energy consumption. Still, if you prefer to have yours freshly baked every time you need it, you can also cut on the cups of beans used so that you only bake what you’ll consume in a specific sitting.
Now, the process of making home-baked beans can be overwhelming, but at the end of the day, they’re still safer compared to canned options considering the preservatives used. At the same time, we also have brands with milder ingredients, and that’s why you should always check these while at the store. Having looked at the America’s Test Kitchen New England Baked Beans Recipe and the key areas that you should be focusing on for best results, exploring your home baking skills will now be more fun for you.