Saturday, May 08, 2010

Maple Baked Beans

OK, I admit it: I have a sweet tooth. A serious sweet tooth. It’s…pretty bad, actually. I put too much sugar in my coffee, I raid the Denizens’ Halloween candy shamelessly, I pour maple syrup on my bacon…yeah.

I like me the sweets.

So when baked bean recipes are all, “…a less-sweet version of whatever…” I’m all, “WHY?!?!”

These are not less sweet. These are shamelessly, gloriously too darned sweet.


You’ll need…

1 pound dry beans (pinto, great northern, little whites or navy beans…for a treat, use Stueben yellow eyes or Anasazi beans)

Pick over the beans, discarding any that are broken, funky-looking or not beans. (Little rocks have a way of fooling the packing equipment…no matter how long you cook them, they will never be succulent little morsels of tenderness.)

Rinse them, then either cold-soak them at least three hours or overnight, or use the hot soak method – put them in water, bring it to a boil, turn it off, clap on the lid and leave them alone for an hour.

After they have soaked, put them into a large saucepan and add ten cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until they are almost done. They should still be a bit “al dente” because they still have a fair piece of cooking to do. Drain, reserving the liquid.

Put the beans into a big old 6-quart casserole dish with…

1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound bacon, diced
4 teaspoons minced garlic

Mix them up. Take that pot liquor and add in…

15 1 cup real maple syrup. Please. I’m begging you. Don’t use the maple-scented liquid plastic stuff. Go for the real deal on this.
2 tablespoons ground ginger. Yes. Tablespoons.
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

…then pour that over the beans. Cover and bake at 325 until the beans are well and truly tender, which is going to take forever (or about 3 hours) (you can also do this in the crockpot - set on low for about six hours).

You can also use a ham hock or diced ham in place of the bacon, but personally I prefer to use the ham for ham-n-bean soup.

You can also, of course, omit the bacon altogether.

Now. Obligatory cheapskate note about that maple syrup…Look. I know the real stuff is expensive…I stopped for a price check the last time I was in the supermarket and found that a 12.5 ounce bottle was going for $10.75 on sale. The regular price was $12.99, which would make each ounce $1.04, and a cup of the stuff a hair over $8.

Kind of painful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I buy mine by the gallon, from places like Triple Creek Maple. Their price for a gallon is $46, plus $18 each gallon to ship it from Pennsylvania to California – not exactly a short trip for it. Your shipping costs may be lower, if you are lucky enough to live closer to Pennsylvania. (I can specifically recommend Triple Creek – ordered from them last time and got an excellent supply of luscious syrup at a very decent price.)

Now, it might seem kind of pricy, paying $64 for a gallon of maple syrup. But that gallon is 164 ounces, and that $64 works out to about $0.37 an ounce – or $3.12 a cup, less than half the cost of the supermarket brand stuff, even on sale. You can store the unopened gallons in any dark, cool place (garage cupboards for us), and the opened ones go in your fridge and take up no more room than a gallon of milk would and will keep for up to a year in there.

If you need to keep it even longer, you can put it in the freezer. Maple syrup will not hard-freeze, so be prepared for that – it can make a devil of a mess in your freezer if you think it’s going to freeze up into ice cubes and get careless about how you keep it.

And if you dig around, you can probably get it for even less. Shoot, a few minutes consulting The Great Google led me to The Field Farm, which has a gallon for $59 including shipping – that’s $2.88 a cup, and they mention volume discounts…hmm, you never know, sometimes what constitutes “volume” isn’t as much as you might expect, especially when you’re dealing directly with a smaller producer.

The real maple syrup is really good stuff.

And that’s enough commercials for one day, thank you very much.

Besides, I’ve got beans to get going this morning…I need about another 40 gallons or so of them to get through my lunch hours next week (I really like these…seriously…sweet little bites of pure deliciousness…)


SomedaysSarah said...

I live in Japan and the lunch I take to work now always inclues a little container of sweet black beans - yuuuuuum! (there are a huge range of ways beans are used in deserts here)

JanTink said...

You can find maple syrup for less from Michigan...Google "Michigan Maple Syrup" and you'll find a ton of choices! I found it for $46.00 per gallon.

Monday's Child said...

And once I've made my HUGE pot of baked beans (for one) do they freeze well?