BBQ Beans are one of those side dishes that you just can’t go without serving. What backyard barbecue would be complete without them? That familiar blend of sweet and savory adds great balance to a good plate of smoked meats and other side dishes. They are easy to make too. If you are pinched for time and don’t set your bar too high, they can be as simple as opening up a couple of cans baked beans and adding a little of your favorite commercial bbq sauce. Have a little more time on your hands? Then you can add bacon, peppers and other fixins and come up with something presentable. If you’re like me, on the other hand, and you appreciate serving your family and guests the best bbq that you are capable of…then from scratch is the only way to go.
This from scratch recipe has served me well. It’s been through quite a few changes over the years and it just seems to get better and better.
1 pound dry great northern beans
4 cups water
1 good sized onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 cups Heinz ketchup
½ cup Bock or Dunkel Beer or Brown Ale
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard powder (Colman’s is my choice, but it can be hard to find)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ Tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 pound or so of smoked meat…brisket burnt ends, chopped pulled pork, ribs, spare rib trimmings or whatever you have on hand.
1) Sort through the beans carefully. Ordinarily, I’ll grab a beer and a mixing bowl and sort through them on the kitchen table. You want to eliminate any cracked or freak-show looking beans as well as any non-bean matter. Once sorted, you can either soak them in water at room temp overnight to soften them up or you can boil them in water for 2 hours. I’ve tried both ways and my experience is that soaking yields a firmer bean whereas boiling yields a bean that is melt in your mouth tender.
2) Grab your smoked meat. Place in a sauce pan with up to 4 cups of water, bring to a boil then reduce heat and leave to simmer. I boil my beans and simmer my smoked meat separately on the stove top simultaneously.
*** Side Note*** whenever I trim a rack of spares down to make St. Louis style ribs, I season and smoke the trimmings right next to my rack of ribs then save them in the freezer for later. I can usually get 2 batches of beans per rack of rib trimmings.
3) After 2 hours, use a spider strainer and remove the smoked meat from the pan to a plate. Using a knife and fork, go over the meat and remove any excess fat, bones and rib gristle. Cut any long strands of rib meat and SAVE THE WATER!! You’re going to use it as the liquid for the bean mixture. All that rub and sauce from the smoked rib trimmings is going to mix in the water along with the fat it will render from the meat and leave you with liquid gold!
4) After 2 hours on the boil, drain the beans and put them in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the liquid gold meat juices along with enough tap water to make 4 cups total. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and bake for 2 hours.
5) Remove the lid from the pot and stir well. Return to the oven and bake uncovered for 2 hours longer. Remove the bay leaf and serve the beans or let cool and refrigerate.