How to Make Perfect Baked Beans From Scratch

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 Michael Maes / Getty Images

You probably don’t give them much thought when you’re at the grocery store, but according to Josh Sharkey, chef and owner of Brooklyn eatery Bark Hot Dogs, "baked beans are the epitome of what great food can be when you take the time to think about each ingredient and the best approach to making them shine.” A simple and delicious American staple, making a pot of beans from scratch beats dumping them out of a can any day.

For Sharkey, the focus at Bark is on using fine-dining techniques to make affordable, approachable food even better. Sharkey spent months experimenting with heirloom beans that could withstand hours of slow cooking without breaking down, and editing the seasonings and bacon to create the perfect bold, rich flavor palette. All that hard work paid off.

"Smelling these beans coming out of the oven, all caramelized and wafting with smoky, mustardy, molasses aroma, we knew we had it before we even tasted it," he recalls.

Customers agreed, and the baked beans have been a staple on the Bark menu ever since. 

Heirloom Baked Beans Recipe from Bark Hot Dogs 

Makes 10 Servings

Ingredients  

  • 1 lb heirloom beans (Jacobs Cattle, Marafax, Borlotti or Cranberry Beans)
  • 1 pc ham hock, smoked, split (put into a cheesecloth)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ lb smoked bacon, diced
  • ½ lb Spanish onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c ketchup
  • ½ c Dijon mustard
  • ½ c molasses
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ¼ c cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Clean beans well and add to a large pot with the ham hock. Add water to cover by 6 inches and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. The next day, drain the beans and reserve the soaking water.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 300º.
  4. Heat a pan over medium heat and add the oil.
  5. Add the bacon and cook until slightly rendered.
  6. Add the garlic, then the onion, and cook until softened.
  7. While the onions are cooking, mix together in a bowl the ketchup, mustard, molasses, sugar, and vinegar. Season with a little salt.
  8. Add the ketchup mixture to the onions and bring to a simmer.
  9. Add the soaked beans, the ham hock, and half the soaking liquid.
  10. Bring this all to a simmer, cover with a lid, and place in your oven.
  11. Cook, covered for about 4–5 hours, add more of the reserved soaking liquid as needed (make sure to boil the soaking liquid before adding to the beans).
  12. Once the beans are soft all the way through, increase the temperature to 375º, remove the lid and let cook for 25 minutes longer uncovered to caramelize a bit.
  13. Remove the beans from the oven.
  14. You can eat these right away, but best to let them cool overnight and enjoy them.
  15. The beans hold very well in the refrigerator once cooked, up to 3 weeks if cooled completely before covering once finished cooking. Just add a little extra water when you reheat.

Tip: Want all the flavor without pork or meat? Substitute smoked turkey legs or charred onions and grilled portobello mushrooms.