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
Cooked beans can be kept for up to three days in the fridge. If you wish to keep them longer, divide the beans into meal size portions and freeze.
- 500 g dried haricot or navy beans
- 1 teaspoon whey or yoghurt
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 2 large onions sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons molasses
- 1 Tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cups tomato passata 750ml, tomato puree
- 1 cup water 250ml
- Salt & pepper
- 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika optional - vegetarian version only
- The night before, 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.
- On the day of cooking, drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly.
- Simmer the beans in a large pot for approximately 1 hour, or until the beans are soft. Drain the beans and set aside.
- 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.*
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if required.
* 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.
The Shortcut Version: If you don't wish to cook the beans, use 3 x 400g tins of drained and rinsed cannellini beans in place of the dried beans. The onions can be cooked as detailed above, or can be replaced with 1/2 cup caramelised onions. Warm the onions in the pot, then continue as detailed in the recipe above.