Somewhat sweeter and spicier than most baked bean recipes, this is a dish that is bound to please all those who love maple syrup. The mixture of spices gives enough flavour that no meat is needed, although for some a little chopped bacon could be added into the mix.
This has been a record year for maple syrup – a record that is for us in our third year of tree tapping. At this point the sap is still running, but with the sudden change in weather, I expect all will be dried up by tomorrow. Our small ‘operation’ of two trees gave us a full 8 litres of syrup, and would have been more had we not given up some time ago. This is more than required for our small household, so to celebrate I decided to splurge and add some to baked beans.
The difficulty was to choose the appropriate spices and quantities to do justice to this local specialty. Garlic, chili, sumac, mustard and bay leaves seemed like obvious choices, and I have enough experience with all of these that I wasn’t too worried about how to use them. But then I came across my asafoetida, and wondered if it would fit. I have used it many times before when following other people’s recipes without really understanding what it was. Time to do a little research. And this is what I learned.
- It is the dried gum of the tap root of severals species of ferula, a perennial herb native to Afghanistan and Iran and cultivated in India. That explains why I had some in my pantry.
- As its name suggests, it is considered to have a ‘fetid’ smell. I actually like the smell, something like mild onion and garlic, but this smell is rendered less offensive to sensitive types once cooked. Interesting!
- It is used mostly in the preparation of condiments, pickles and dals and has the effect of harmonising sweet, salty and spicy flavours. It is also used specifically in vegetarian dishes to add flavour and aroma. Perfect for a vegetarian bean dish.
- It also has a host of health benefits, not least of which being good for digestion and with the opposite effect of beans. This should have been my first choice of spices.
In short, what I learned is that this is a very useful spice, one I should and will use more often. If you are interested, here is the link to the wikipedia site where I got all this information.
Maple Baked Beans
4 cups cooked beans (I used navy)
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tomato concentrate (preferably home-made)
1/2 cup maple syrup
a few bay leaves
2 Tbsp sumac powder
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp salt
Mix everything in a slow cooker. Set on high and cook for five hours, stirring occasionally if at all possible. It it becomes too dry, add a splash of boiling water.
When cooked, remove the bay leaves and serve.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, it can be done on the stove top, in which case it won’t take much more than an hour. However, with my bean baking experience, I prefer to give it about two to three hours at medium low, and just add water and stir if it gets too dry.