Some dishes are seasonal, like cool salads and sandwiches during summer and warm, hearty roasts and casseroles for winter. Baked beans have no season, because they need none. They’re just as welcome at summer barbecues as they are at winter socials. Baked beans can be a side dish, a main course, easy leftovers, and they even go well on a breakfast plate. And they make for inexpensive, oftentimes healthful fare. Whenever and however you eat them, they are savory, sweet, and satisfying.
Baked beans are also a truly American dish. Long before the Pilgrims settled on a rock called Plymouth, Native Americans were baking dried beans with maple syrup in earthen pots buried in pits filled with hot wood coals. Later, recipes brought molasses, brown sugar, salt pork, bacon, hamburger, spices, even pineapple to the mix, all according to region, taste, and tradition. Even the beans themselves are the subject of debate and opinion; some claim the only bean to be baked is the Great Northern, while others insist on butter beans. Others believe any dried bean can be baked, in any combination, including kidney and lima beans.
Some recipes don’t even call for baking, instead producing a stewed dish that is less thick. Canned baked beans — a staple for camping trips and in bachelor pads — are stewed, and can be used as a base for baking recipes.
Serve up delicious fried chicken and savory sides for a perfect summer picnic.
Andrew Weidman lives and writes in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. As his mom used to say, “If you leave the table hungry, it’s your own fault!”