So one of my things is baked beans. I make them from scratch from fresh ingredients (except for dried beans, of course) and, of course, include bacon. Many have asked for the recipe, so I share it below. I include variations for my vegan or vegetarian as well. I’ve made these both ways, and they are scrumptious.

The night before:

  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans

Soak beans in a covered bowl overnight in enough cold water to submerge them completely, 5-6 cups.

Bean day:

  • 1 pound bacon, chopped (I like to use dry-cured bacon, but any kind works)
    • Vegan option: enough olive oil to cook the onion at the beginning, 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped (optional)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • For the Vegan version: add about 3 tablespoons soy sauce for umami
  • 4 cups liquid: vegetable (vegan) or chicken broth, or reserved water from soaked beans
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Vegan Variation: add an extra teaspoon salt
      Note: smoked sea salt is a very nice touch in place of the kosher salt

Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Place a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in 3/4s of the bacon (or olive oil), onion, and jalapeños until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until the flavor opens up, about one minute. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, and molasses (and soy sauce).

Drain the beans and reserve the soaking liquid. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven. Add 4 cups liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add in cayenne, coriander, black pepper and salt. (Adjust cayenne to your personal heat preference. I like a little more zing, but even a bare hint is enough.) Give them a stir and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender.

Shortly before serving, cook the remaining chopped bacon until crisp. Garnish the finished beans with the bacon crumblies.

In the need of desperation, we’ve sampled the beans after four hours. They’re good, but if you can give them that extra 2-4 hours, they’re even better. We eat them as is, or with a small dollop of sour cream or a little grated cheddar. This is my variation of a recipe I originally saw on Alton Brown. (Beano is optional).