How to make your own baked beans

How to make your own baked beans

When HJ Heinz sold his first tin of baked beans to Fortnum & Mason in London in 1886, few would have predicted the start of a national love affair. Yet 134 years later, baked beans are a staple for millions of Brits and synonymous with cooked breakfasts and student suppers on toast.

These days, baked beans are often sold by supermarkets as a cheap item, actually sold at a loss to attract customers. But in 1886, Fortnum’s displayed Heinz’s tins proudly, as a pricey and exotic American import.

Where were baked beans invented?

Homemade beans in a skillet (Image: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Baked beans began life in the USA. The navy beans (known in the UK as haricot beans) in the dish are native to the Americas and were a staple of the Indigenous people's diet, sometimes cooked with bear fat, venison and maple syrup.

The pilgrims and other early immigrant groups adapted the dish, possibly incorporating the traditional flavours of their own dishes, such as French cassoulet. In New England, baked beans soon became so popular that Boston was nicknamed Beantown, an epithet still occasionally used today.

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Boston baked beans were made with salt pork and enriched with molasses. Traditionally, they are served with Boston brown bread on the side – a dark, sweet loaf made with wholemeal or rye flour, molasses and buttermilk.

Beanz Meanz Heinz?

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Heinz UK (@heinz_uk) on

In the late 19th century, Henry J. Heinz entered the picture. Canned foods were still a new technology, first used in America in the 1860s. Heinz’s nascent company began by selling horseradish and tomato ketchup, and soon added tinned baked beans to its then small collection of products.

Heinz baked beans initially contained pork and were sold to curious Brits shopping at Fortnum’s at a high price. From that point onwards, baked beans became more and more a part of the British diet.

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Heinz baked beans continued to contain pork up until the Second World War when rationing meant this was no longer possible. The company’s famous slogan, Beanz Meanz Heinz, was coined in the 1960s.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Heinz UK (@heinz_uk) on

The 1990s saw a baked beans price war among the big supermarkets, with own-brand beans selling for as little as 3p per can. These own-label beans, along with other brands such as Branston, have made a dent in Heinz’s market share, but for an estimated 65–70% of British baked bean eaters, Beanz still Meanz Heinz today.

How to make baked beans

Beans and sausages in a skillet (Image: Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock)Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock

Homemade baked beans can’t compete with tinned on price, but it’s worth making your own once in a while. You’ll get a far tastier, more complex dish with the pucker of vinegar, the rich sweetness of brown sugar and the heat of mustard.

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This baked beans recipe takes the dish back to its New England roots, but with a British twist – it uses English mustard and Lyle’s black treacle instead of molasses. Some pancetta or lardons would make a delicious and traditional addition too.

Ingredients

  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin haricot beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tsp English mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin haricot beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tsp English mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin haricot beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tsp English mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper, to season

Details

  • Cuisine: British
  • Recipe Type: side dish
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Preparation Time: 5 mins
  • Cooking Time: 60 mins
  • Serves: 4

Step-by-step

  1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.
  2. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, then add the sugar, black treacle, mustard and vinegar, and simmer for a few minutes on a medium heat before adding the beans. Season and turn down to a low heat.
  3. Simmer for an hour on a low heat. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little water to loosen the mixture.
  4. Adjust the seasoning and add a few drops of Tabasco if more heat is required.

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