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Baked Beans

Baked beans is a dish containing beans, sometimes baked but, despite the name, usually stewed, in a sauce. Most commercial canned baked beans are made from haricot beans, also known as navy beans � a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris � in a sauce. In the United Kingdom, tomato sauce is most commonly used.

In the United States, Boston baked beans use a sauce made from pork and molasses, and are so popular the city has been nicknamed "Beantown." Maine and Quebec-style beans often use maple syrup. They are used as a convenience food when heated, or eaten as a snack, straight from the can.

History
The beans used in baked beans are all native to North America and were introduced to Italy in 1528 and to France by 1547. Beans, squash and maize were grown together by Native Americans using the Three Sisters method of farming.

According to alternative traditions, sailors brought cassoulet from the south of France, or the regional bean stew recipes from northern France and the Channel Islands. Most probably, a number of regional bean recipes coalesced and cross-fertilized in North America and ultimately gave rise to the baked bean culinary tradition familiar today.

While many recipes today are stewed, traditionally beans were baked in a ceramic or cast-iron bean pot. Bean hole cooking as practiced in Maine's logging camps used stone-lined fire pits where the bean pots would be buried to cook overnight or longer.

Canned beans, often with pork, were among the first convenience foods. Canned salt pork and beans with stewed tomatoes was supplied to the US Army during the American Civil War in the 1860s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated in 1996 that It has for years been recognized by consumers generally that the designation 'beans with pork,' or 'pork and beans' is the common or usual name for an article of commerce that contains very little pork. This is typically a piece of salt pork to add fat to the dish.

United States
In the United States, Bush's, B&M, and Allen's are well-known producers of baked beans. B&M concentrates almost exclusively on Boston-style baked beans, while Bush's produces several flavours; both use cured bacon to improve the flavors of their products. Most of these products are in a very sweet sauce with little tang, compared with the tanginess of home-made baked beans.

Heinz also sells baked beans in the US, but there are substantial differences between the Heinz baked beans sold in the UK and the nearest equivalent American product (Heinz Premium Vegetarian Beans).  The American product contains brown sugar where the British beans do not, and the US product contains 14g of sugar per tin compared to 7g for the British version (equating to 140 vs 90 calories).  The US beans have a mushier texture and are darker in colour than their UK counterpart. For several years, the UK Heinz Baked Beans have been available in the US, either in different sized cans from those sold in the UK or in a 385 gram can (the same can as the 415 gram can in the UK) with an "export" label with American English spelling and the word "baked" dropped from the title on the label. These are sold in many US specialty stores.

In New England baked beans are sweetened, either with maple syrup (Northern New England), or with molasses (Boston), and are traditionally cooked with salt pork in a beanpot in a brick oven for a full day.

In southern states along the eastern seaboard of the US, the beans become tangier usually due to the addition of yellow mustard. Ground beef also becomes common alongside bacon in these beans. They take on a flavor similar to Cowboy Beans, a similar popular dish.

Elsewhere
Traditional cuisines of many regions claim such recipes as typical specialities, for example:

  • In Poland, with the addition of bacon and/or sausage these are known as Breton Beans (fasolka po bretońsku).
  • Jersey bean crock
  • Boston baked beans
  • Pork and beans, which despite the name often contain very little pork
  • Guernsey Bean Jar
  • Spanish Fabada
  • French Cassoulet
  • Feijoada
  • Fassolia
  • New England baked beans
  • Quebec-style baked beans are often prepared with maple syrup.
  • Bean-hole beans, traditionally from Northern New England and Quebec, cooked in a covered fire pit in the ground for up to two days
  • British cuisine claims beans on toast as a teatime favourite, the combination of cereal and legume forming an inexpensive complete protein; compare rice and beans. Variations of "Beans on Toast Deluxe" can include extras as such as egg, grated cheese, marmite, tuna etc, and baked beans sometimes form part of a full English breakfast.
  • Beans cooked in barbecue sauce (or a similarly flavoured sauce) are a traditional side-dish in an American barbecue.
  • "Franks & beans", a recipe wherein hot dogs are cut up and cooked in the same sauce as the baked beans.
  • In Mexico and Latin America baked beans are also popular: black beans (frijoles negros) and pinto beans (frijoles pintos) are the most common.
  • In the Balkans, they are known as Prebranac.

Many unusual dishes are made with baked beans including the baked bean sandwich. These are slices of bread topped with beans and other additions, such as melted cheese.

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