When I was a kid, no family get together was possible without Grandma’s baked beans.
They were everyone’s favorite, served hot at the occasion, packed home in butter dishes for leftover meals and served cold, and retrieved from her refrigerator long after the rest of the occasion’s leftovers were nothing more than a memory. They never seemed to spoil, and while I’m sure that they never lasted long, all of us were sure that they had some magical property that prevented spoilage.
As a teenager, I was sometimes allowed to help with their preparation, although much of it happened out of my line of sight. Grandma liked her secret, and cooking had never been her forte, so this one exceptional recipe was guarded better than a state secret. (Wikileaks NEVER would have gotten it from HER!!!)
I was an adult before she ever shared the recipe, finally teaching my mother, her ex-daughter in law, how to make the treasured recipe. It was the last time she ever made them, and it was the last time I ever ate them. Grandma had a huge secret, you see.
They weren’t baked beans, after all.
Those were CANDIED BEANS!
There was so much sugar in them, it was impossible to recognize them as anything but candied. That’s where their magical anti-spoilage property came from…all that sugar. We couldn’t ever use her recipe, it seemed somehow just wrong, but we did leave them as a high-sugar recipe. (This is about half of the sugar that she used, to give you an idea of exactly how sweet they really were!)
Grandma’s baked beans
- 1 #10 can pork & beans (Grandma always insisted on Van de Kamp’s pork & beans)
- 10 large yellow onions
- 2 lbs. bacon (get good bacon, nice & smoky and as lean as possible)
- 4 lbs. light brown sugar
- 4 tbsp. prepared mustard
Chop the onions finely and place in a large roaster pan. Cut bacon into 1″ chunks. Pour beans into roaster, add bacon, brown sugar, and mustard. Stir to combine. Bake at 250 degrees F. for about 8 hours, stirring once an hour.
Beans are done when they are dark brown, a little bit “translucent” from the sugar, and the sauce is thick. Serve hot or cold, they go with just about everything! This makes a lot of beans, about 20 servings.