When I was growing up, baked beans were a staple on my mom's side of the family. I don't really remember my dad's family making baked beans, but they may have. They were inescapable on my maternal side though. Aside from bread and butter, beans were surely the most common meal served at my grandparents' place. My mom made them frequently, using the recipe handed down from her mother.
I didn't really go for the beans and always turned up my nose at them. I was a picky kid. Off the top of my head I "didn't like" beans, vegetables, onions, mushrooms, pork chops (at times), marmalade, gravy, yorkshire pudding, fish (still don't), coconut, pumpkin pie, or steak. I liked bread, with butter, peanut butter, cinnamon spread, or especially homemade jam. My grandfather nicknamed me 'Jamie Jam Can'. Now that I think of it, 'Jam Can' would have made a good old-timey baseball name, like Oil Can Boyd.
But I digress. With all the talk about the recession/depression, I was thinking about all the things my grandmother did to feed eight kids. She baked bread, cakes, cookies, made homemade jam, and I'm pretty sure there was a butter churn kicking around, though it may only have been for decoration. I'm not in any rush to churn butter or make jam, so I got thinking about beans. My mom was the third youngest of eight, so I can imagine a cheap meal of baked beans and homemade brown bread was rather appealing. My mom called from Australia last week, and I asked her for the recipe, despite never having liked it. I had a feeling that my tastes had matured; since going vegetarian I'm more adventurous and willing to try things again. On Sunday I whipped up a batch. 'Whipped up' may not be the best description - they took about eight hours. As with nearly everything else I've been eating, I served them up with a big chunk of bread, which helped to soak up the delicious sauce. I'm not sure how I could ever have claimed to not like beans. They smell wonderful, they're sweet and savory, and bread tastes even better after sopping up the sauce.
Nan's Baked Beans
1 lb. dried red kidney beans
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. ketchup
1 tsp. salt
1 whole onion, peeled with ends cut off
1 tbsp. shortening or butter
Rinse the beans, and dump them in a large pot filled about 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat for a medium boil for about 3 hours. Do not stir, but pick up the pot and shake occasionally. Take off heat, and add all ingredients. Don't stir, but give the pot a good shake. Place in oven at 350° for about 4 hours. Serve.
I still say it's not the best looking meal, but it sure is tasty.
Published Monday, March 23, 2009