By Richard Thomas
In my Kentucky born-and-bred mind, baked beans seasoned with two of the South’s classic ingredients, bacon and bourbon, are the classic fixing (side dish) for any barbecue. The easiest way to go about making bourbon baked beans is to take a can of high quality, name brand baked beans with bacon, add bourbon, and heat it up on the stove top. However, even if you cover the saucepan, all of the alcohol and much of the bourbon flavor will evaporate away. While easy, this method produces an inferior pot of bourbon baked beans.
Far better is to bake the beans from scratch. Baking beans is easy, and working from scratch allows you to control exactly how the pot of beans will taste.
As usual, use a reasonably priced or cheap bourbon for cooking. The flavor of an expensive small batch or single barrel is wasted on cooking. For this recipe, the type of bourbon you might have a noticeable impact on the taste. Those looking for a sweet maple and vanilla flavor should steer towards Buffalo Trace or something like it. For a smokier flavor, try something like Knob Creek.
12 oz. dry white/navy beans or 32 oz. of canned white/navy beans
1 medium yellow onion
Block of unsliced bacon
1 cup of tomato sauce
4 tbls of brown sugar
1 tsp of black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tbls of bourbon whiskey
Soak the dry beans overnight. Drain the beans when you are ready to cook. If you use plain, canned navy beans for this recipe, skip this step.
Pour the beans into a mixing bowl. Cut about 4 oz. away from your unsliced block of bacon, and chop that piece into large chunks. Dice the onion. Stir the bacon chunks and diced onion into the beans.
Pour in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, pepper, bay leaves and bourbon whiskey. Stir the contents of the bowl thoroughly, and then pour the bean and sauce mixture into a baking pot with a lid.
Bake at 250 degrees F (120 C) for 3 hours. The beans are ready to eat now, but will taste much better if allowed to cool and stored overnight in the refrigerator. Like chili or stew, the beans require at least one day after cooking to fully season.