I tweeted about Settler’s Beans yesterday and had several requests for the recipe. Let me start you with a little background…
Many years ago when I was a teenager (looooong time!), we went to a tiny basically one-room church (complete with outhouse until the addition was finished!) called Coon Creek Baptist. Every year, they had a fellowship “Homecoming” dinner, and everyone brought traditional old-time dishes. That’s the first time I can remember having “Old Settler’s Beans,” authentically cooked in a bean crock. They’re basically sweet baked beans, but with extra meat and a variety of beans added to the mix.
For some random family get together with my inlaws, I made a version of Settler’s Beans from an old recipe I found in one of my MIL’s antique cookbooks she’d given me. It was a huge hit and has become a tradition for our family. The monsters love them too. Even though Littlest Monster whines “we’re having beans again!?!?!” she’ll eat Settler’s Beans gladly because they’re so sweet.
I’ve probably been making them about 10 years or so. Each time, they come out a little different. I’m going to type up the “recipe” from memory, with the disclaimer that they do come out differently every time, depending on what I have on hand, etc. This isn’t a recipe you need to follow strictly at all. I think the “old settlers” would approve most highly of using whatever you have on hand, because I’m sure they did!
Old Settler’s Beans
2 pounds ground beef
1-2 pounds bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large family-sized can of Bush Baked beans
(any flavor, but we use Maple or Brown Sugar)
2 cans dark-red kidney beans
2 cans butter beans
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
(we use KC Masterpiece honey or brown sugar flavored)
3 T. yellow mustard
3 T. chili powder
Brown the bacon until crispy, and spoon into baking dish (I use the crockpot). If you really want to be healthy, drain the fat — but I typically don’t at this point. The onions taste fabulous sauteed in the bacon grease! Add the ground beef and brown. I do use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground beef and onions into the pot, or the final beans will be pretty greasy.
Add the Bush’s baked beans to the pot. Drain the other canned beans and add to the pot. If you’d like a less meaty dish, add more beans! The butter beans are my personal absolute favorite and I always use them, even though I have to make a special trip to a different store (our Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them).
In a med. bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients into a paste. I admit, this is TRIPLE the homemade sauce from what the original recipe calls for, but I’m putting in way more meat than the recipe called for too. You could always knock off a 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. brown sugar if you’re worried it’ll be too sweet. I’m also very liberal with the chili powder — tastes really good with the sweet sauce.
Dump the sauce into the pot and stir, but not too much (don’t smash the beans). I typically cook in the crockpot on low for 2-3 hours. I have also made the beans the night before, refrigerated, and then cooked the following day. Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven an hour or so at 300 – 350 degrees.
This makes a ton of beans. As a side dish, it can compliment a dinner of easily 15 people with likely some leftovers. I make as much as my crock pot will hold, so that we do have some to eat the next day.
P.S. I don’t typically add much salt since the beans and bacon are loaded with sodium. You can also add fresh garlic to the ground beef if desired.