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Gastronomic Alert - Danger!


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I love baked beans. I particularly like them prepared New England style with molasses, brown sugar, and pork, but I'll eat any version: a tangier country type made with barbeque-style sauce, or vegetarian beans with mostly brown sugar and spices, or one with bacon and onion flavoring the sauce, or southwest style using cilantro and cumin together with bacon. I've even had versions substituting maple syrup or honey for the brown sugar: all good, all recognizable as baked beans.

Our local brand here in Virginia is Bush's, found throughout the South; they took some getting used to when I relocated from New England, since they are made from Navy beans and thus are somewhat softer and larger than my very favorite baked bean make by B&M Baked Beans, who ships their unique product throughout the country from Maine, deep in the heart of bean country. B & M Original Baked Beans are made from small pea beans baked slowly in a sauce that contains pork, molasses, corn syrup, salt, dried onion and garlic, sugar, and spices including allspice, cinnamon and mustard. The resulting sauce is deep brown in color and rich with a flavor that is unforgettable.

Most canned baked beans here in the States come from Navy beans (Haricot beans), although B&M, thankfully, sticks to pea beans for its product. Other baked bean producers include Van Camp, who make a canned Pork and Bean version thick with pork and beloved by carnivores, and a version called Barbeque sauce with Beans; beans are a secondary ingredient in each. Other familiar labels include beans made by Campbell's Soup Company and by H.J. Heinz.

Here is where I ran into big trouble, and I want to warn other baked bean lovers of a hidden danger on our supermarket shelves, thanks to H.J. Heinz.


I was late getting home and I dashed into my local Fresh Market to grab hot dogs, buns, some slaw, and a can of baked beans to organize a quick supper around. Everything else in hand, I cruised the aisles looking for beans and finally found a section where they might be shelved. Sure enough, I spotted a green (!) can with a familiar Heinz 57 logo (within a black keystone! I should have become immediately wary) but I was in a rush and hurried through the checkout and onward home. Table set, hot dogs steaming (alas, my grilling days are behind me, in more ways than one) buns sliced, buttered and toasting (I said I was from New England, didn't I) and the can of beans opened and dumped into a pot. They looked a little peculiar, all little white blobs floating around in a red puddle but, hey, I figured they'd been on the shelf and everything had maybe settled out to the bottom. I gave a stir, but no change. Still white grubs in a red sauce. Hmmm.

Well, time to serve up, it was getting late and The Voice was about to come on the tube. (I'm still deeply grieved to know that Carson Daley and his girlfriend have two kids together, but he's well worth a look and there's Adam Levine to goggle at anyway.) So I plated up and prepped my hotdogs with spicy brown mustard and stewed onions, sat down in front of the TV, and took a bite of my beans. GAHHH!!

What in the....??? I rushed back to the kitchen and grabbed the bean can. H.J. Heinz of...Pittsburgh? Nay! H.J. Heinz of Hayes, Middlesex, ENGLAND. Wot's all this? Let's have a look at the ingredients: 'Beans, Tomatoes, Water, Sugar, Modified Cornflour, Spirit Vinegar, and Salt.' GAHHH!! And they're COOKED! Not baked. Cooked.

Beware, my friends. Beware of bean cans with green labels. And if you're planning a trip to England, be sure to pack a few survival cans of authentic baked beans. They'll try to give you these boiled tomato-beans for breakfast, or on toast. Just push your plate politely away, stand and say 'excuse me, I'm American and we bow to no boiled bean' and retreat while you can.

James Merkin

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I don't eat Baked Beans and haven't since I was a kid and was made to eat them. However, I suspect the ones I got were the ones you're warning us about :icon1: Whether I can overcome my childhood aversion and try some US-style baked beans when I'm next in the USA is another question....

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Beans in a can...any real cook knows you have to fiddle with that to make it palitable. I remember beans and franks in pubic school, they should have come with a clothespin to suffer your way thru the gastronmic distress from fellow students that follows.

Bush does make a fine can of beans. Add a little diced tomato, maybe even a can of Rotelle diced tomato and chilies. I avoid the overly sweet versions, too much processed sugar is bad for you. If you must have sweet with your hot then try honey. (I am not from New England, can you tell?) Better yet, skip the baked beans and make black eye peas New Orleans style over rice. Yummy.

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I was a northerner (northern Midwest of the US, for our out of country folks) and didn't find the Southwest until I went to college in Tucson, Arizona. There I discovered Southwest food and fell in love with not only the food but the country.

I finally was able to move back to this country after a 35 year hiatus. You know, at one point before I got her, Taco Bell hot sauce was too much for me. Now I think it tastes like catchup.

I have developed a recipe for Southwest beans that I think you will all enjoy. Here it is:

Southwestern Beans

By Richard Norway


  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 (29 ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small cans of green diced chile
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • water, if needed


Soak the dry beans in water overnight. Place the pinto beans in a large pot, and pour in the chicken broth. Stir in bacon, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2-1/2 hours, stirring often, until beans are tender. Add water as needed to keep the beans moist. If it seems too moist and you want it thicker, remove the cover for the last hour of coking to allow it to thicken, but keep stirring every 15 min. or so.

If you like refried beans, mash some of the Southwest beans in a food processor. You may have to add a little water to get the consistency that you desire.

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There was a cooking show on the radio here in the Bay Area with a restaurateur named Narsi David. He owned several restaurants. My mom wrote down his instructions for making fart-free beans. She claims this works. What you do with them after (bake 'em, boil 'em, refry 'em, throw them away, whatever) is up to you.

Follow Richard's recipe but replace the first sentence with the following:

Place pea or pinto beans, your choice, in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil then turn off the burner. Cover and soak the beans in this water overnight. In the morning drain the beans and add water to cover. Stir then drain the beans (yes, a second time). Do not use the water the beans soaked in or the water the beans were rinsed in! Now continue with Richard's recipe (except, of course, the beans are already in a large pot so there's no need to transfer them to yet another large pot – unless you want to).

Does this work? Damned if I know, but my mom says it does. I don't eat beans because I'm missing the gene that provides an amino acid that keeps the beans from being almost totally converted to farts. When I order a burrito I have them substitute extra rice in place of the beans. Sorry, Richard.

Colin :icon_geek:

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In New England we traditionally ate brown bread with our baked beans in order to provide all nine essential amino acids and a completed protein. I'm no nutritionist and can't explain the chemistry, but this combination results in minimal farts and maximum food value.

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Cooked in English says nothing about the cooking method. Anything cooked could be fried, baked, boiled, coddled or any other method you can think of. Agreed the choice of tinned 'baked beans' is very limited in the UK and years ago when I was a kid, ie when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Heinz was the only brand in the UK that did not have hard bits in the beans.

I'll confess to still liking tinned beans, but they are terribly unhealthy being laden with salt (you can now buy "low" salt ones) and an absurd amount of sugar.

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Cole: For the mustard, I use Frenches prepared mustard from a plastic squirt bottle. It's not as hot as the dry mustard and has a slight sweeter taste that adds to the flavor of the beans. I use the mild green chiles, because the spicy taste does not come from the green chiles; they're added for their green chile taste. The hotness comes from the jalapeno pepper, and you can very the hotness by using two jalapeno peppers if you'd like.

Hope this helps. If you prepare it, let us know how you liked or hated the taste.

If you like frijoles (refried beans), just put some of the Southwest beans in a food processor and mash for 1 - 3 minutes. You may need to add some water to get the consistency that you want.

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Baked Beans from a tin were Saturday lunches when I was growing up. The Australian brand of SPC sits alongside the Heinz. Two varieties were available with pork or ham and vegetarian, both in tomato sauce. Neither were 'baked', just boiled beans in tomato sauce. James' version sounds much more exotic.

I have been making our own 'bean stew' for years now, and the standing joke is that we tell the guests, who ask what is in the bowl, that, "It's been stew but we don't know what it is now."

Soaking the beans over night is supposed to remove the gas causing complex sugars called alpha-galactosides which humans cannot digest. Bacteria interacts with the sugars in the gut causing the gas problem. Soaking will help, but not completely eradicate the reaction with bacteria in some people. Same applies to lentils.

I haven't bought tins of beans for years as I prefer to cook my own from scratch. Too many preservatives and additives for me, and generally we go out of our way to avoid processed foods of any kind. There is no doubt in my mind that we are far better off preparing our food from raw items whether you are a meat-eater, or a vegetarian like us

Personally, I prefer my meat alive and served in its own tasty sauce, although these days, it is wise to ask where it has been.

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I'm amazed, reading this, to discover that the rather awful, cheap-and-cheerful can of Heinz Baked Beans (Beanz Meanz Heinz) that Mums for decades have been spooning into their kids, and which foodies turn their noses up at because of the vast amounts of salt and sugar they apparently contain, is not, after all, a popular US food that's been exported over here and adopted wholesale like so many other US imports, but a UK-specific variant concocted just for us! What's that all about? I'd love to try the genuine US version, and will be trying Richard's recipe as soon as I can work out what Cilantro is. I confess I've tried refried beans and don't like them. They're beans so they should be bean-shaped.

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Definitely an acquired taste, Bruin, like so many things American:

'Cilantro is a member of the carrot family and is botanically-known as Coriandrum sativum. The plant and leaves are called cilantro in the Americas, while the seeds (used as a spice) are called coriander (see below). To confuse matters further, the leaves are often referred to as Mexican parsley, Chinese parsley, and coriander.

The leaves (which do resemble flat-leaf parsley), stems, and even the root of the cilantro plant are edible. The most common description of the taste by those who do not care for cilantro is, "It tastes like soap." Those who enjoy this herb agree that the flavor is definitely strong and pungent.' (From About.com)

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Cilantro is one of the major flavors in the spicy salsa that's served with chips make from tortillas and are served at the beginning of a meal in Mexican restaurants. It doesn't taste anything like soap. It does have a strong flavor, much stronger than Itralian parsley, but it's one that's easy to get used to and love.Goes great in scrambled eggs, sprinkled on tacos and various other foods.

At the grocers, find a bunch and rub a leaf between your fingers and then smell them. You'll get a really good idea of what it tastes like.


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More from a can. Bush has several lines of beans that are different than the standard "baked bean". One is called "Grillin' Beans" ( http://www.bushbeans.com/en_US/products/grillin_beans/ ). I haven't tried them yet, but one of the line uses black beans instead of the standard great northern bean.

The other line is http://www.bushbeans.com/en_US/products/cocina_latina/ and they use pinto and black beans. I saw both at the Kroger yesterday when buying lunch.

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Cilantro is wonderful. Everything (other than sweets) is better with cilantro. When I go to Baja Fresh (a local burrito chain) I always ask for "lots and lots of cilantro, please" and now they recognize me and say "with lots and lots of cilantro, right?" I agree that cilantro is an acquired taste, but once acquired it adds a note of flavor to foods that nothing else can.

Colin :icon_geek:

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