“Heinz Style” Baked Beans….On Toast
I look like a retarded muppet rescued from the Alberta oil sands. Yes, today my hair “cut & style” was that bad. I sent Mike a text on my way back from the salon to convey that my experience was the rotten apple on top of a shit sundae of a day, and he wrote back some typically supportive message about how it couldn’t be THAT bad. Then I got home. He wrapped me up in his arms, shuddering ever so slightly from his barely contained snickers, and told me, “Babe, I think that you look beautiful. No matter what.” I thought about the product-happy harpy who had had me belted down and aesthetically vulnerable just minutes before, and I started to feel litigious.
This experience cost me $65. I paid $65 to look like I’ve been playing dress up with Nell. I’m not sure if this qualifies as stupidity or simply masochistic behavior. It’s difficult to say.
When I got home, I needed some comfort food. But….I didn’t really want to cook. Enter the joy of baked beans, a pot of which can be prepared in advance and easily satisfy your need for rib-sticking satiety for days to come. The British are pros when it comes to comfort food, with lots of stodgy greats like meaty pot pies, curries, bangers and mash, and a proliferation of things on toast. When you get tired of ‘cheese on toast’ and ‘fries on toast’ (the great “Chip Buddies” that dreams and cholesterol grievances both spring from), you still have good old fashioned ‘beans on toast’ to warm your belly.
The traditional beans are, and must be, Heinz baked beans. To a die-hard Brit there is simply no rival to that little turquoise can. I am inclined to agree based on the principle that the flavors of childhood stick with us and stay our favorites through adult life more often than not. Despite not having a glimmer of the UK coursing through my veins, I also grew up on Heinz baked beans and I’m perfectly happy eating them cold straight out of the can (usually when I’m feeling sorry for whatever recent tragic twist my life has taken). However, a close proximity to Heinz baked beans lies only as far away as your pantry and slow cooker. This may not be the real McCoy, but equally good Heinz-like beans are nothing to sniff at; just something to swallow.
“Heinz Style” Baked Beans
- 1 lb dry navy beans
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp molasses
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 660 ml (22 oz) passata *
- 6 cups liquid **
- salt and pepper to taste
* Passata refers to sieved or strained tomatoes, where the skinned tomatoes have been passed through a fine mesh and most of the pulp and seeds are discarded. If you do not have passata, thin 2 cups of crushed tomatoes with 3/4 cup water. Please do not use diced or chopped tomatoes, because you want the sauce to be smooth.
** A good vegetarian option is to just use water. Generally, I split the liquid with 2 cups of beef stock and 4 cups of water, or half chicken stock and half water, but I tried it with plain old H2O this time and was quite pleased with the results.
Put the beans in a large bowl and pour water over them until the meniscus is about 2″ above the level of the beans. Add a pinch (1/8 tsp) of baking soda to the water and leave the beans to soak over night, or for up to 12 hours. Don’t skimp on the soaking time because the more moisture they take in before cooking, the better. After soaking, drain the beans thoroughly and discard the liquid.
Grate an onion and place the pulp and juices into the bowl of your slow cooker. Press or pulverize your garlic and add it as well, along with the brown sugar, molasses, Wooster sauce, cider vinegar, tomato paste and bay leaf.
Stir the mixture until it is combined. Add in the drained beans, passata (strained tomatoes), and liquid.
Cook the mixture on high heat for 7-9 hours, or until the beans are tender and have absorbed the bulk of the liquids. Give the beans a stir after 6 hours, and every now and then afterward (no more than once every hour or two) to reincorporate the liquids as the beans tend to sink while the sauce floats on top.
Depending on how fresh your dried beans were, and how long you left them to soak, they may need a bit less time or a bit more time. I always like to err on the side of caution when it comes to dried beans, and just over 8 hours at high heat works perfectly in my slow cooker.
If you don’t have a slowcooker these beans can easily be made in a Dutch oven with moderate heat. Reduce the overall cooking time accordingly and be sure to check and add more water if they start to look dry. Traditional Heinz style baked beans are tomato rich and slightly stewy, so you don’t want them to get too thick.
Season the beans with salt to taste, and pepper if you really feel the yen.
These beans are delicious scooped up with salty tortilla chips for a snack, or served on the side of a good stodgy English Fry Up, but my preference is for the perennial favorite: beans on toast.
Making beans on toast is highly complicated, as you might imagine. I mean, first you have to make (or reheat) your beans. Then you have to make your toast. THEN you have to put your beans on your toast. I know, right? But all that effort is worth it in the end.
As we keep on plugging through FIFA World Cup (and Saucer) month, I’m fairly certain that half the English team would be inclined to agree.
Sweet, tomato rich and comforting baked beans are a blessing that should really be enjoyed more often than just at Sunday brunch. For example, maybe the next time that *you* get a ridiculous haircut that makes you look like a love child between Edward Scissorhands and Bob Marley’s aunt, you’ll think, “Mmmm….beans…..”