I first had these at a graduation party a few years back. They did not look very appetizing to be honest (more about that later) and so I skipped over them at first. By the time I found out what they were, there were hardly any left.

These are sometimes called Calico Beans, probably owing to the variety of beans used in them. In researching this recipe, I found a lot of old varieties called for coffee. This makes sense, as old cowboys wouldn’t have wasted any sources of water. I haven’t tried that—yet.

And yes, once I make these again, I’ll add a picture. In general, they don’t last long enough for me to get a picture of them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 4-6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (16 oz) cans pork and beans, undrained
  • 1 (16 oz) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (16 oz) can butter beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup catsup
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (use your favorite brand)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder (I use Colman’s)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the ground beef and onion and cook until the beef is thoroughly cooked and the onions soft and translucent. Drain off any fat remaining.
  4. Return the bacon to the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Pour into a large baking dish. (I use a commercial steam table pan—a deep half pan.)
  6. Bake uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the sauce is the desired thickness.

Notes

  1. Do not stir while baking. A chewy-crisp crust will form on top which is delicious, but not terribly attractive, and the reason I initially passed them up.
  2. You can also pour the beans into a slow cooker and cook on low for about 4 to 6 hours, uncovering during the last portion of cooking.
  3. If you don’t have pinto beans or kidney beans on hand, you can substitute just about any other bean variety. But you must use butter beans—which are giant lima beans—as the dish is not the same without them.
  4. You can omit the beef and bacon and the dish is instantly vegan. You may want to add a bit of liquid smoke to make up for the smokiness of the bacon, however.
  5. These freeze well, and the recipe doubles or even triples without any problem, so it makes sense to make a larger batch than needed and freeze the rest.
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