Homemade Baked Beans are a world away from any tinned variety. Once you have made your own, it is very, very difficult to return to beans from a tin, even if it is more convenient.
Tinned baked beans are the ultimate in convenience food. At one time my cupboard held many tins of Heinz beans in a range of sizes. A few years ago I found an organic brand, heavy with spice and molasses, that quickly became the preferred variety in our house. Then came the fateful day that I made my own.
Nothing from a tin can quite compare to the rich, smoky flavour of homemade baked beans. Whilst it is possible to add further flavour and spice to a tin of commercial beans, the result is never quite the same as a pot of beans lovingly created from scratch.
Beans add nutrients and much needed fibre to our diets, and a pot of beans can cover any meal emergency. I love them for breakfast with scrambled eggs, for lunch tucked into pies or toasted sandwiches, and will happily serve them over sourdough toast for a speedy dinner. Baked beans freeze really well and, as The Princess is quite partial to beans for breakfast, I have taken to freezing smaller portions in silicone muffin cases just for her. Defrosted overnight, they are easy to quickly warm in the morning.
I like to use a smoked ham hock in my beans. The hock adds a smoky flavour, and the shredded meat bulks out the dish. I have also successfully made a vegetarian version of these beans using smoked paprika. If you feel faint at the idea of cooking your own beans, take a shortcut instead. With a jar of caramelised onions in the fridge, and a few tins of plain beans in the cupboard, you are halfway to a delicious home cooked meal.
I will acknowledge that it takes time to make homemade baked beans. Far more time than it takes to open a tin. The end result is worth the effort though; a large pot of tasty beans. And I apologise in advance if you can never look at Heinz beans the same way ever again.
Homemade Baked Beans
For soaking the beans
- 500 g dried haricot or navy beans
- 1 teaspoon whey or yoghurt
For making the baked beans
- 1 large smoked ham hock
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 2 large onions thinly sliced
- 4 cloves whole
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 1 Tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 750 ml (3 cups) tomato passata (tomato puree)
- 250 ml (1 cup) water
- Salt & pepper
- 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika optional – vegetarian version only
To soak the beans
- The night before you wish to make the baked beans, place the dried beans in a large bowl. Add the yoghurt or whey, and cover the beans with at least three times the amount of water as beans.
- Add the yoghurt or whey, and cover the beans with at least three times the amount of water as beans.
- Allow to sit for at least 8 hours, and preferably overnight.
To cook the beans.
- Drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly.
- Place the beans in a large saucepan, and cover with at least three times the amount of water as there are beans.
- Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer the beans in a large pot for approximately 1 hour, or until the beans are soft.
- Drain the beans and set aside.
To make the baked beans.
- Whilst the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a large oven-proof pot with a lid.
- Add the onions to the pot, and stir to cover the onions with oil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow the onions to slowly cook for around 45 minutes. Stir the pot from time to time to prevent the onions catching on the bottom. When ready the onions should be soft and golden in colour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C (150C fan forced).
- Add the mustard, molasses, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and cloves to the onions, and stir to combine. If making the vegetarian version, add the smoked paprika at this stage.
- Stir in the tomato passata and water, season with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
- Gently stir in the cooked beans. If using the ham hock, add this to the pot and gently push the hock to the bottom of the pot so that it is covered by liquid.
- Cover the pot, and place in the oven for approximately two hours, or until the liquid in the pot has thickened, and the meat on the hock (if using) can be easily pulled from the bone. [See Note 5 below]
- Turn the oven off, and remove the hock from the beans.
- Shred the meat from the hock and gently stir the shredded meat back into the beans.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if required.
- Serve with well buttered toast.
- If you are using dried beans, this recipe needs to be started the night before. For a vegetarian version, omit the ham hock and use smoked paprika instead.
- The navy/haricot beans must be soft before they are added to the tomato sauce, as they will not soften further in the oven.
- Both the cooked beans and the cooked baked beans can be kept for up to three days in the fridge. If you wish to keep the baked beans longer, divide the beans into meal size portions and freeze.
- If making the vegetarian version, the beans may be ready sooner. Vegetarian beans are ready when the sauce has thickened nicely.
- The meat version of these beans are ready when the meat can easily be pulled from the ham hock. Check the beans occasionally during the cooking time, and if they seem dry, add some more water to continue the cooking process.