Some days you just need Old-Fashioned

Well Minnesota. Looks like we’re not going to squeak out that mild winter after all. This morning I’m watching cars creep by outside and the snow pile up on the lawn. I might get to bust out those new snowshoes yet! Days like today call for an extra-large sweater and old-fashioned hearty dishes. Something that sticks with you as you trudge out in the cold, but brings back warm memories of family and fireplaces.

Baked beans anyone?

Okay. So maybe it’s just me that craves baked beans when it’s cold and snowy. I get that they are an All-American picnic food, meant to be eaten with potato salad, ribs and the 4th of July. But I never want a hefty scoop of warm, sticky, bacon-ness when it’s 90 degrees outside. Gross. They are my warm-you-up comfort food, and definitely not a summertime thing.

I want a full bowl after watching pond hockey until my fingers are numb. I want to smell them baking when I come home from a brutal rush-hour commute. I want extra-large spoonfuls while I’m watching the snow removal crew shovel the porch. What? You honestly thought this gal knew how to use a shovel? Please. That’s never going to happen. And most of all, I want them totally unhealthy. Complete with an embarrassing amount of maple syrup and a 2:1 bean to bacon ratio. That’s right. For every 2 bites of beans, there has to be at least 1 bite of bacon. There’s only one rule I have about baked beans. There can never be enough bacon.

I wish I had a secret family version, passed down from my great-great-great relatives through generations of cooks all wishing for the same old-fashionedy feeling on a snowy day. Instead this recipe was adapted from my Taste of Home cookbook. Nothing fancy. But then again, old-fashioned rarely is.

Old-Fashioned Baked Beans

Adapted from The Taste of Home Cookbook

1 pound of dried great northern beans, sorted and rinsed

1 quart of cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard (I used some of our homemade)
1/4 C. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 lb. thick-sliced bacon

1. Place beans in a large stock pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn off heat. Cover the pot and allow beans to stand for 2 hours or until soft. Beans will not be fork tender, but no longer hard either.
2. Drain beans and return to the pot. Add quart of cold water and salt. Return to a boil again, cover and simmer until beans are tender (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). This time they should be fork tender. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 C. of the cooking liquid.
3. While beans are cooking, prepare a 13 x 9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place onion, garlic in the baking dish. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine mustard, maple syrup and molasses to form a sauce.
4. When beans are drained, preheat oven to 400°F.  Add beans to the baking dish and toss with the onion and garlic. Pour sauce over the top and stir to evenly coat. If necessary, you may add cooking liquid to thin sauce slightly. Spread beans into an even layer in the baking dish and pat down slightly with the back of a spoon.
5. Lay an even layer of bacon over the top of the beans, ensuring that bacon covers entire layer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sauce is thick.  Remove from oven and carefully remove bacon to a cutting board. When bacon is cool enough to touch, crumble with a knife and return to the baking dish.  Mix to evenly distribute.

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