CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Fourth Of July Baked Beans

What food do you most associate with a Fourth of July celebration?

If asked, many people probably would say burgers or hot dogs or something else that’s cooked on the grill. Or perhaps corn on the cob or watermelon. And don’t forget about potato salad.

Me?  It’s baked beans, baby!

In my book, no Independence Day get-together would be complete without some of that “magical fruit.” And for me, leftover baked beans are better than those fresh out of the oven , especially if they are put between two slices of bread along with a little Cheddar cheese and some bread and butter pickles. Mmm!

While aficionados wouldn’t think of using something out of a can, I have a sure-fire recipe where you don’t have to mess around with soaking beans.

My recipe comes courtesy of an old friend, Rich Vezina. Rich and I have been friends since kindergarten, and he shares my passion for cooking and eating good food.

I first tasted Marc’s Baked Beans — that is what Rich calls them — a few years ago when on an annual baseball trip to Minneapolis to see the Minnesota Twins. For several years, Rich would host a cookout for many of those who made the trek from the northwestern part of Minnesota to see the Twinkies play.

On one of those occasions, he served some baked beans that were a huge hit.  The dished contained several cans of beans (kidney, butter, lima and B&M) as well as bacon, vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard and onions. (Canned beans may be stored in their original sealed cans indefinitely.)

If the following recipe looks familiar, that because it’s probably similar to ones many of you make or have sampled at church dinners, family picnics or work potlucks.

One of the reasons I like baked beans is that they are fairly nutritious — if you overlook the sodium in the pork. Beans have a ton of protein and soluble fiber, an important factor in lowering LDL cholesterol, and are a complex carbohydrate, which can satisfy appetites longer by allowing a slow, steady rise in blood-glucose levels.

You can’t say that about hamburgers and hot dogs!

Marc’s Baked Beans
14½-ounce can kidney beans
1 14½-ounce can butter beans
1 14½-ounce can green lima beans
1 1-pound, 12-ounce can B&M beans
½ pound bacon, diced
4 sweet yellow onions, medium to large, chopped coarsely
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup vinegar (cider or white)
¾ cup brown sugar
Brown bacon and set aside. Place vinegar, brown sugar and dried mustard in a saucepan and simmer until dissolved.Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish, including the bacon and fat. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 1 hour. Remove cover and bake for an additional hour.

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