Tuesday, July 7, 2015

[Gluten-Free] Homemade Baked Beans (From Scratch!)

The other day I was putting together a menu for a family barbecue and I was completely stumped. You know the dreaded "writer's block" phenomenon? Well I'm pretty sure there's like a cooking equivalent to that. "Recipe block." So I did what any normal, sane person with this so-called "recipe block" would do... I took a snack break. 

Turns out, all this recipe brainstorming was making me hungry. When I came back to the task at hand, I had a breakthrough. Homemade baked beans! It was a completely brilliant plan. The only catch? I had never made baked beans before. Minor detail.

Like most people, the only baked beans I really knew of came from a can. They were put there by a man. In a factory downtowwwwwn. Do you remember that song? Classic. Luckily, many of the canned versions of baked beans are gluten free, so I've always had options. As a kid, my mom would add a big diced onion to the canned beans while they simmered away on the stove. A little homemade touch really made a big difference. But from scratch? I never knew of anyone doing that.

So I started searching for recipes. I googled "Homemade Baked Beans." All the photos looked delicious. I clicked on six or seven of the recipes. But I would get halfway through the ingredients list and see "2 cans of Pork and Beans." Nooooo. I was hoping I could channel my inner Little House on the Prairie and make the beans from scratch. Oh that Laura Ingalls. She really knew her stuff.

I had to think logically about this. What was it about the canned versions of baked beans that I liked so much? The sweetness (brown sugar), the smokiness (molasses), the rich texture (bacon), and the slight spiciness (jalapeƱos). Okay. I could do that. Now I just needed to figure out how to cook beans in the oven. I had made beans a gagillion times before, but never in an oven. That's when I came across this recipe. Low and slow was the way to go. And when I say slow, I mean 8 hours slow. But don't freak out! This recipe is ridiculously simple and it makes a lot, on purpose. You can make it up to 3 days in advance and just reheat it when you're ready. Or you can make it on a day that you will be home, freeze it, and have delicious, homemade baked beans whenever you want!

Is it worth it, you ask? Absolutely, completely, and totally worth it. The flavor is out of this world! Plus, your house will smell utterly delicious. Make this for your next barbecue and I promise you, your guests will be so impressed! And only you and I will know how easy it is.

It'll be our little secret.

[Gluten-Free] Homemade Baked Beans (From Scratch!)
Holy Moly these beans are divine! The perfect balance of sweet, smoky, and spicy. This recipe is deceptively simple and only requires about 20 minutes of “hand-on” time. Your oven does the hard work for you. Make these and you may never open another can of baked beans again!

Makes 12 servings

2 pounds dried Great Northern beans
1 pound bacon, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, small dice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
½ cup molasses
8 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Rinse the beans. Then place in a large bowl or pot. Fill with cold water until the beans are submerged by 2 inches of water. Let the beans soak overnight.

Place a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Stir in bacon, onion and jalapenos. Cook until the bacon fat has softened the onions, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, brown sugar, and molasses.

Drain the beans. Add drained beans to the pot. Stir in vegetable broth and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir everything together and cover with the lid. Turn off the heat and place the pot in the oven for 8 hours, or until beans are tender and cracked open. Serve immediately or let it cool and place in the fridge for up to 3 days. (The longer it sits, the better it tastes!)

*Make ahead: I like to make these a couple days before I serve them and then just reheat it on the day I need it. It also freezes very well. This recipe makes a lot, so freeze what you don’t eat and then you have delicious baked beans at the ready!

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