Saturday, March 21, 2009

Classic Southern Style Baked Beans

Southern seasoned baked beans with chili sauce, mustard, brown sugar, bacon, onion and bell pepper - they're a cookout tradition! Pictured here with grilled ribs, Mama's Southern potato salad and marinated tomatoes.
Southern seasoned baked beans with chili sauce, mustard, brown sugar, bacon, onion and bell pepper - they're a cookout tradition! Pictured here with grilled ribs, Mama's Southern potato salad and marinated tomatoes.

Classic Southern Style Baked Beans

I have been cooking my baked beans pretty much this same way since the 70s. And all those years I have been doing them in this old Pyrex dish.

Well... that is until one day I dropped it and broke it. This was a wedding gift back then and I can't tell you how many potlucks that little carrier basket has been to over the years! {I told y'all I had some old dishes, though I guess the politically correct way to say that would be "vintage."}

You can certainly start with dry beans and cook up these baked beans from scratch if you prefer, and you can substitute any good brand of pork and beans (I recommend Van Camp's), but personally, I have always started with, and highly recommend, Bush's Original Baked Beans, if you prefer to go the name brand route on beans. You just cannot go wrong with Bush's - that ole dog Duke is right! Yes, they kinda have a little head start with the seasonings, and yes, they are pretty good all on their own heated in a saucepan, but, I like to jazz them up a bit more for baked beans. You won't regret using them!

We're all pinching pennies these days so I understand if you want to save money. Either way, these are easy, speedy and delicious and always a winner at any potluck or party.

I use a basic chili sauce in my beans which adds great flavor.

Heinz Chili Sauce is a tomato based product, containing tomato puree, onion, garlic and other seasonings.

I once substituted some Thai chili sauce, I had in the fridge that needed to be used up. I still used a bit of hot sauce and the Cajun seasoning and it worked out great, giving the beans a great, super spicy kick, though I gotta say... the next day, woooooweeeeeee were these some spicy, hot beans! Even a bit much for this gal, but hey, if you like spicy heat, try that, otherwise use something like good ole Heinz chili sauce, or substitute regular barbecue sauce, or even plain ketchup.

Hey while you're here, check out my other baked beans. While these classic brown sugar baked beans are my favorite standby and always welcomed, I've ventured outside of the box with a few other versions of baked beans. The Spicy Meat Trio Barbecued Baked Beans are delicious for the meat lovers in your life, because these are bumped up beefy barbecue baked beans y'all - good and meaty. I've also put up a Calico Baked Bean recipe made with a medley of bean varieties and a Hawaiian Baked Bean made with pineapple, after several of y'all told me how good they were, and I'd have to agree.

Now, back to the subject of bacon... Unlike many Southerners, I do not generally put strips of raw bacon across the top of my baked beans. It certainly isn't because I don't like bacon, and of course, my baked beans are cooked with plenty of bacon, because I believe that Southern baked beans simply must have bacon, no way around that one really, and preferably some bacon in every bite. I LOVE Wright's bacon - but look what I recently found! I love this one too. But hey, I've not met a bacon that I didn't like so far in this life, so use your own favorite.

Anyhoo.... while I do think putting bacon on top is nice for presentation at a picnic or potluck, I prefer to render the bacon in a skillet, saute the veggies in the drippings, and mixing half of it right into the beans, and putting the rest on top, giving a great smokey bacon flavor not only on top, but throughout the beans, without the excess fat from raw bacon dripping coating the top of the beans.

I'm also a fan of bacon done well and crispy, and when raw strips are baked on top, they either do not have enough time to cook through completely and crisp up, or else the beans get overcooked and dried out for the bacon to crisp up. I've noticed at every party I've ever seen baked beans topped with bacon, the bacon is always undercooked and just gets shoved to the side and rarely eaten. Frankly, bacon is a bit too costly these days for that! You can run the dish under the broiler at the end, but then you risk drying out and burning the top of the beans that way too.

All that to say, I prefer my bacon flavor mixed in the beans, with a little bit sprinkled on top, but for the purposes of being a blogger of Southern food, I have included the option in my recipes. If you prefer putting bacon on top, you go right on ahead and do that. There is no wrong way in your kitchen and don't let me, or any other Southerner tell you otherwise.

Here's how to make my favorite brown sugar, baked bean recipe, Southern style.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If you're topping your beans with the strips of bacon, I prefer to parcook them a bit to render the fat and start the cooking process. Cook half of the bacon (enough to cover the top of your casserole dish) in a large skillet over medium heat until bacon is softened and bacon fat is rendered, but don't allow them to get completely crisp. Set those strips aside on a plate and reserve any drippings. If you're topping with chopped bacon, just cook it all together in the skillet, setting aside half to reserve for topping.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the remaining bacon, cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is softened.

Stir in the beans. Again, use whatever variety of pork and beans you like, but from day one I have always used Bush's original baked beans to start with - and actually that was the only Bush's beans back then, unlike the wide variety they have today. Use what you like though - like I always say, it's your kitchen. Baked with the additional seasonings, I have to tell you, these are the best baked beans!

Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Pour into an ungreased 9 x 13 oblong baking dish, top with the strips or chopped, parcooked bacon.

Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees F until bubbly, or about 35 to 45 minutes.

Check out more of my cookout foods on Pinterest!

Posted by on March 21, 2009
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