Monday, July 5, 2010

B.J.'s Baked Beans

Twenty-six years ago today, my parents opened their restaurant called B.J.'s BBQ & Deli. They sold it & retired 10 years ago, but it remains the backdrop for much of my childhood as well as the breeding ground for my love of food. When the restaurant opened, my mom's goal was that "B.J's would become a household name". And that it did. We lived in a small community in Northern California & B.J's went from a tiny take out BBQ place to a slightly expanded restaurant that seated 55 and would serve up to 300 dinners on a Friday or Saturday night.

The menu consisted of deli sandwiches, bbq ribs, chicken & prime rib, deli salads, corn on the cob, and my mom's famous baked beans. Every few days she would bring to life a huge vat of beans which would slowly sit cooking for an entire day. There was a lot of love & time poured into these beans.

So this year some internal clock went off inside of me. A few days ago, I dragged out my mom's recipe for baked beans, which I had never made myself before, and began my adventure of de-coding a restaurant portion recipe into one that would fit onto my stove. The process takes ALL day, but is about a million, billion times better than anything you will find in a can. Just the smell of them cooking on the stove sent me straight back to the many, many days I spent in my parents restaurant.


2 C. Great Northern Beans (1 small bag)
1 C. BBQ sauce
1/8 C. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. mustard
1-2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 C. thick sliced ham, cubed
1 Polish sausage, cubed
1 Tbs. Kitchen Bouquet (if this is not something you use, you find it in the condiment section at the store - it's great for adding a dark, rich color & flavor to sauces & gravy)
1 tsp. salt
1 C. brown sugar

What you do:
Rinse beans & put into large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off and let sit for 1 1/2 hours. Dump out water, and refill with fresh water, then turn back on a and simmer until tender, about an hour & 1/2 more, until tender. Make sure there is enough water remaining to cover the beans. Then add Kitchen Bouquet & salt and continue to cook for another 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, saute onion, ham & sausage until slightly browned. Pour in 1/4 C. of water to deglaze pan and then add remaining ingredients except brown sugar, and simmer in a small saucepan until beans have cooked for 1/2 an hour.

Add sauce mixture to beans and cook for at least one hour, stirring often.

Add brown sugar and cook another hour. By then you will have tender, sweet, tangy beans that will be the star of your BBQ. These are great if you make them the day before you plan on serving them, and let them hang out in the fridge overnight. They are great hot or cold.

Last night, on the 4th of July, as I found myself hunched over a plate of BBQ spare ribs, fresh corn on the cob, and my mom's baked beans, I realized I had subconsciously re-created an exact replica of what would be served at B.J's. And now that I read these words, I see my mom's dream of having B.J.'s being a household name has lived on all these years later.

I hope you will try these and I hope that they will continue to live on in infamy in your family.

Happy Independence Day!


  1. Mmm, what a comfort food that is!

  2. That's true Joy! I'll have to add them to my list of comfort foods!

  3. We really miss that place being around. When life was easy, and the food was delicious. They continued to call that place BJs after your parents left, but the food wasn't so great. It's now called the Hillbilly Grill, believe it or not.

  4. Yes, B.J.'s is missed. It was such a cool location and everyone looked forward to coming there for there BBQ fix! It was quite special.
    I miss it too!