British-style baked beans at home for Topa’s 71st birthday

Since my college days, I’ve always been fascinated by recipes for dishes that we typically eat store-bought, whether it’s from a package at the supermarket or from a bakery. I like seeing recipes for things like Oreos, pop tarts, and even Goldfish crackers because they’re just nostalgic: they evoke a sense of childhood and, well, pure youthful ignorance of what kind of crap goes into the food you consume and ultimately put into your body. Why am I saying this? Well, if you are aware of the food industry, you will know that packaged food items that are shelf stable and meant to last a while, such as Oreos and pop tarts, are shelf stable because of all the preservatives and artificial ingredients that are added to it. And no, those things are typically not great for your health. So it’s always fun to see homemade “upgrades” of these foods.

I did not grow up with baked beans. During the times when I did have them, they were typically a side to barbecue, usually ribs or brisket. Chris’s dad’s daily breakfast while he’s back home in Melbourne is tinned British-style baked beans, usually out of a Cole’s brand can, mixed with some sambal oelek sauce for some heat, on top of toasted multigrain bread. That’s a very British breakfast, one that is 99.9999% of the time always from a can for Brits. So when I saw that Serious Eats posted a recipe for British-style baked beans, I thought it would be a nice treat for his birthday, to have fully homemade baked beans made from my Rancho Gordo eye of the goat heirloom beans.

I soaked the heirloom beans for four hours (for heirloom beans, they say to never soak them more than six hours). Then, I rinsed and simmered them for another three hours. Finally, I made the sauce, which is a base of diced tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, onions, fish sauce (as a sub for Worcestershire sauce, which I never have), garlic, brown sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. I blitzed it in my blender and added it to the pot of beans, then simmered it down until the sauce became a thick glaze. And the flavor was most definitely an elevated version of the canned British-style beans; it had this interesting, savory, sweet, tangy flavor, with a nice bite from the velvety eye of the goat beans. The flavor was complex, but still reminiscent of the tinned beans. I was pretty pleased with my final result.

British-style baked beans are nowhere as sweet as American-style baked beans. I even reduced the sugar in the Serious Eats recipe a bit to ensure they weren’t too sweet. And I think they came out perfectly. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

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