Beans, beans – the magical fruit – the more you eat the more you… eat! Well, maybe just these beans. I couldn’t see myself (or anyone for that matter) sitting down and eating an entire plateful of “regular” baked beans. However, people will crush huge platefuls of these beans and go back for second helpings. The secret? Flavor, flavor and flavor. To simply call this recipe “baked beans” is a slap in the face to the bacon, hamburger, onions, peppers, beans and other things that make this concoction of southern hospitality and gourmet fixings something to behold.
What began in Kentucky has been passed down from generations of Baldridge’s and subsequently has become our secret family recipe. It goes by many names among the kinfolk and friends who have tried it: “Three Bean Bake,” “Kentucky Beans” or “Those Awesome Beans You Made.” My recipe is slightly different than the original as each family member puts their own twist on it to make it their own, which is the beauty of this recipe. These beans are sure to be a crowd favorite for any tailgate party, BBQ or if you happen to find yourself herding cattle across the prairie.
Enough foreplay. It’s time for the recipe. Now, there’s something you should know before delving into a southern-style recipe. You will have no need for measuring cups. Southern cooks go by taste. Keep tasting your beans as you go and if you think it needs more kick, spice it up accordingly.
Yields: 1 full large crockpot fit to feed an Army
Prep Time: 40 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Several cans of baked beans (various flavors)
Can of kidney beans
Can of chili beans
Can of black beans
*Any style of beans you like can be substituted for the kidney, chili and black beans (except green beans)
Small can of tomato paste
1lb ground beef (hot sausage or venison work well too)
¼ cup minced garlic
Several sweet peppers
Black pepper and other spices
Heat up the frying pan (medium heat) and crockpot (high heat).
Chop the onions and peppers and place them together in a large bowl. Mince the garlic if it’s not already minced.
Open all cans.
Pour all beans into the crockpot. Add about a cup of brown sugar to the beans.
Fry the bacon until it’s somewhat crispy. Sprinkle some black pepper on the bacon as it cooks. Use the meat scissors to cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Add bacon to the beans in the crockpot and stir it in. Pour most of the grease into the beans, but leave some on the pan.
Cook the ground beef next, breaking it up with the spatula into bite sized pieces and sprinkling black pepper and other seasoning onto the beef as it cooks. Cook until all the meat is no longer pink. Add the beef to the beans along with the grease, leaving some grease in the pan.
Sauté the onions and peppers using the grease on the frying pan. After a few minutes, add the minced garlic and mix the vegetables around.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tomato paste. Mix the tomato paste into the veggies until it coats them completely. Cook for a few more minutes. Be careful not to burn it.
Add about ½ cup of vinegar to the frying pan. Mix it into the veggies. This is called “deglazing the pan.” The vinegar pulls up the flavor that has settled into the pan and brings it back to the food. Cook for another minute or so, and then add it all to the beans, which should be bubbling in the crockpot by now.
Mix the beans well and then cover them. Cook for at least an hour before serving to let all the flavors mingle. Taste the beans as they cook to see if they need more spice or sugar. Once the beans are bubbling, put them on medium so as to not overcook them.
You’re done. Crack open another beer and relax.