I have been slowly working on this bean recipe for a few years now. I knew I got it right when my husband stopped asking me to buy the canned stuff. I love that my Yankee-born and bred husband is starting to appreciate southern food. We've been together 22 years so these things are a big deal. I call these Virginia Baked Beans because, well, I'm from Virginia and this is my recipe. I'm a smart one, huh? I'm pretty picky about my baked beans. They gotta have that right mix of sweet and smoky. I think you are really going to like this combination of flavors if you give it a try.
½ pound bacon
1 medium onion
3 (16 oz.) cans pork & beans (undrained)
3 tbsp. mustard (yellow, spicy brown or dijon if you're feelin' fancy)
¾ cup maple-flavored syrup (or the real stuff)
⅔ cup ketchup
⅓ cup molasses
¼ cup brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy, then crumble bacon. Don’t toss the bacon drippings. You should have about a 1/4 cup of drippings left in the pan if your bacon was fatty enough. Finely chop the onions and saute them (over medium heat) in the bacon drippings until onion is clear (it will brown up a little too from frying in the bacon fat). If you used very lean bacon (which I don’t recommend) then you may have to add a tablespoon or so of oil. But the bacon fat is really what adds the flavor here.
Now mix all the remaining ingredients together (including crumbled bacon).
Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.
Cover with aluminum foil and put into preheated oven for about an hour (until brown and bubbly).
If you like your beans to be a little less sauce-y (which I do), take the aluminum foil off and bake for about another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will thicken the sauce up. Depending on your oven, it may take up to another 45 minutes. Just be sure to stir beans occasionally.Stir before serving.
Cook's note: If your bacon produced a large amount of grease then you may need to set aside some of it for later use. You really don’t want more than about a 1/4 cup of bacon grease for this recipe. Anything more and it will be greasy baked beans.