Those Junior Leaguers of Denver? They really know their stuff when it comes to recipes.
When I first started to really get into cooking, my reference materials consisted of the following: my mom's cookbook collection or her hand-written recipe cards, which were neatly categorized--along with a few newspaper clipped recipes--in a plastic brown box. We of course had no Internet yet and the cooking shows, while present were also limited, so for the most part they were not even on my radar.
Back then (jeez--I'm starting to sound old), before the massive foodie craze started to escalate, it was completely normal to have a respectable 20-25 cookbooks in your collection, some of which were located on shelves across the country (Joy of Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens) and some of which were gifts or regional purchases from your travels.
Three or four of these "niche" type of books that resided--and still reside--in my mom's cookbook cabinet were (I believe--Mom, correct me if I am wrong) gifts from my aunt, who lives in Denver. They are published by the Junior League of Denver and each volume contains hundreds of original recipes from both its members and local professionals.
My mom used these books so often for many of her go-to recipes that some of the first cookbooks that she bought for me were Colorado Collage, Colorado Colore and Colorado Cache, so that I was able to recreate the dishes that had become both familiar and favorites, even when I was no longer living at home.
I've also been able to discover some new favorite recipe. It's funny (and I've said this many times before): I have hundreds of cookbooks in my collection, but there are really only a handful to which I refer on a regular basis. As simple as they are--not an overabundance of fancy pictures or overly complicated techniques--I constantly find myself referring to the JL of Denver collection for inspiration and quick dinner ideas. Maybe it's out of habit, or maybe it's because I know the recipes usually work!
This recipe, my all-time favorite baked bean recipe, was inspired by an entry in the Colorado Collage cookbook, published in 1995. I tweaked the ingredients quite a bit, but the standard technique is the same. I love this recipe for several reasons:
1. It makes a large amount, so it is perfect to bring along to a pot-luck or to serve at a picnic or barbecue.
2. Although you need to start it the night before to soak the beans and the cooking time is long, the recipe is very low maintenance. You just need to check on it every once in awhile to make sure it's not bubbling over in your oven (tip--line your lower oven with foil when baking to catch any bubble over!)
3. The flavors in this recipe improve over time, so you can make it ahead and serve it days later. It even tastes great cold.
4, 5, 6: Maple. Bacon. Rum.
Need I say more?
I have been making this hearty and flavorful baked bean recipe for years, and it is always a huge hit at picnics, barbecues and potlucks. The longer cooking times allows flavors to really develop, and they develop even more over time, so leftovers are encouraged!!
- 6 thick-cut strips Applewood smoked bacon
- 2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tsp (10 mL) minced garlic
- 2 cups (500 mL) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) dry mustard
- 1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) ground ginger
- 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
- 1 pound (500 g) dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in water
- 4 cups (1 L) water
- 2/3 cup (160 mL) dark rum
- In a large, deep ovenproof pot or dutch oven, cook the strip of bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tbsp (30 mL) drippings in the pot.
- Cook the onions and garlic in the bacon drippings over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the broth, vinegar, maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and cloves. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the beans and 3 cups (750 mL) of the water to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until beans are tender.
- Preheat the oven to 325F/160C. Add the remaining 1 cup/250 mL water and rum to the pot. Crumble the bacon and add it to the pot, stirring to mix. Cover and bake for 2 hours.
- Reduce the oven heat to 275F/140C and continue to bake for 4-5 hours, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are very tender.
- Remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake the beans until a soft crust forms on top and the remaining liquid has evaporated, 30-45 minutes more. Delicious served hot, room temperature or even cold!