Homemade Baked Beans – A hug in a jar

IMG_1643_NEUMmmmh… beans… hero of weekend breakfasts, lively companion of the humble baked potato, saviour of hungry evenings when you have not managed to buy food for a proper dinner and come home from the office absolutely starving…

Those are not the days however when you should be making homemade baked beans, because that takes about 14 hours, all told. Why then should you go through the trouble at all? Easy, my friend: flavour. Imagine the goodness of soft warm beans in a fruity-fresh sauce with a little sparkle of spices, not too sweet, not too salty, just as you like it.

If you then consider that the biggest effort of preparation is to cut three vegetables, and to root out the dusty jar of tamarind you bought about two New Year’s ago when you decided you absolutely have to cook more interesting things, it doesn’t all seem so bad, does it.

Not to mention the impressed faces of your mates when you invite them for brunch and crack open a jar of your finest beans. Instant brownie points. Trust me.

IMG_1638

Homemade Baked Beans
NB the beans need to be soaked overnight/for 8-12 hours. Cooking time is about 2-2,5 hours plus cutting veg etc.

You need:
White Beans, dried – 250g
Onion – 2 medium-sized, white or red –  chopped into smallish pieces
Celery – 1 stick – chopped into smallish pieces
Carrot – 1 – chopped into smallish pieces
Apple – 1 –  peeled and chopped into smallish pieces (gives some fruity sweetness and slightly thickens the sauce)
Tomato Passata – 1 bottle of 750ml (or chopped tinned tomatoes, 2 cans)
Salt (add after the beans have been cooking for a bit already, otherwise they don’t soften as well, see below)

SPICES – these vary to taste, or depending on what you have handy. The idea is to give it a hint of sweet and sour/ oriental flavour, like ketchup.
I used:
Honey – 1 teaspoon, or to taste (the apple also adds some mild sweetness) – or sugar
Cinnamon
Garlic
Vanilla – 2 cm of a vanilla bean (cut it open and throw the whole thing in – you can remove the skin later), or a teaspoon of vanilla sugar/vanilla essence. Really adds some nice warmth.
Juniper berry – 1-2
Bay leaf – 1
Chilli – I used a small bit of a fresh one, or a small shake of dried flakes
Ginger – I added a small bit, like half a clove of garlic
Tamarind – the Indian savoury paste. You can replace by a teaspoon of lemon juice, or leave out. I put in only a tiny bit.

Also nice options to add could be:
Orange juice
Raisins
Curry powder (but only a little bit, or it tastes mostly of curry)
White whine (why not)
Lovage seed
Star anise
Cumin

You also need water, and oil for frying (about 2 Tablespoons, and any decent cooking oil is fine. I used sunflower oil).IMG_1639

What to do:
– Soak the beans overnight/8-12 hours in cold water. Then drain and discard the water.
– Chop the onion, celery, carrot into small chunks. The finer, the easier they will melt into the sauce. Heat some oil in a big pot, fry those vegetables on medium heat until the onion is translucent/all is a little bit soft.
– Add the beans and everything else EXCEPT THE SALT, plus about 1 liter of water. Stir it about a bit to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, bring the heat up briefly until it’s bubbling, then reduce the heat to fairly low (I had it on 2 out of 9, simmering away quietly).
– It has to cook for about 2 hours or so. Wait at least 1 hour before adding salt (to your taste). You don’t really need to do anything, just check every now and again in case all the water has been soaked up already and the beans are not soft yet. In case, add some more (hot) water. If there is foam forming on the top (which is normal when cooking beans), try and remove it with a spoon. Also go ahead and stir it anytime you feel like it.
– It’s done when the beans are soft enough, and the sauce thick enough. All vegetables will have more or less disintegrated into the sauce. Just look for the vanilla pod and bay leaf.

baked-beans_1I put a few portions in clean screw-top jars – I don’t expect them keep as long as industrially canned ones, but definitely a few weeks, especially in the fridge. So you can make a bigger portion without having to eat beans all week.

Method for saving in jars:
– Use very clean screw-top jars – jam jars etc. (if they went through a dishwasher, they are pretty much sterilised, but even washed with very hot water is good).
– Prepare your station: put a tea towel down somewhere on the counter or so where the jars can rest and cool. Get a sauce ladle with a spout, if you have one, or a regular ladle. Wear washing up-gloves (jars will be hot). Have a paper towel ready.
– Put all the jars and lids in a plastic bowl and pour boiling water over/into them (it heats them up so they won’t burst when the hot sauce is put in).
– Take a hot jar out of the water, fill it with sauce TO THE BRIM, tap the bottom gently to get rid of trapped air bubbles, wipe excess sauce from the rim with paper towel, screw on the lid, then put the full jar upside down onto the tea towel.
– You can turn them around after 10 minutes, or leave them upside down until they are completely cool. Only put the jars in the fridge when they are completely cool. Turning them onto their lids helps to create a vacuum to seal them.

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