Baked Beans

July 18, 2007

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You can’t rush baked beans—and you’ll be so happy you didn’t! Most of the time, though, is in the slow baking. Use canned beans and you can stir this together in a jiffy. SAM

1 pound dried navy beans, or 3 (15-ounce) cans navy beans
Water for soaking and cooking
1 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare dried beans: Sort and rinse the dried beans and soak overnight, covered with cold water. Drain the soaking water, place the beans in a large Dutch oven or chef’s pan over medium-low heat, and add the bacon and fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Drain the beans and bacon, reserving 2 cups liquid.

To prepare canned beans: drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large Dutch oven or chef’s pan over medium-low heat with the bacon and 2 cups fresh water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the beans and bacon, reserving 2 cups liquid.

In a 4-quart, oven-proof casserole, combine the beans and bacon mixture, sugar, molasses, mustard, ketchup, lemon juice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 cups reserved liquid. Cover and bake for 6 hours at 275 degrees F.
Makes 8 servings.

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Green Beans with Hot Bacon Dressing

June 15, 2007

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When I was growing up in Iowa farm country, every good cook kept a tin can of bacon grease on the back of the stove. Each morning, she—most farm cooks were women, then—poured the extra grease from the breakfast bacon into the can. For us, bacon grease was like olive oil in Tuscany or Normandy butter. Vegetables, meat, fish, potatoes, rice, even biscuits all got a generous slathering of warm, greasy comfort—and were they good! These green beans double as a side dish and a hot, tangy salad. Yummmm … even the smell takes me back. SAM

1 pound small green beans, snapped with ends and strings removed
4 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced (1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sugar, optional
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Steam the green beans until just tender, about 7 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings, lower the heat to medium, and sauté the garlic and onion until translucent, not brown. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, and pepper. Bring just to a boil and pour over the green beans. Sprinkle with bacon, toss, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.