Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

4th of July


I love the 4th of July.

It is the holiday of bbq and sunshine. Of pasta salads and baked beans, watermelon and beer. Brightly colored sodas in glass bottles and little boxes of snaps that pop when you throw them at the ground.

When I was thinking about food for our BBQ, I asked some friends if they had any favorite 4th of July food and was surprised that most of them said they didn’t really associate the 4th with food. It was always a different story in my household. I think that it is partly because we always take any holiday as an excuse to do fabulous food. I also think it is partly because the 4th of July is like the official summer grilling holiday. It is the day that you cook all of your favorite summer foods and then indulge in them while exploding things. That is what America is all about right?

Well, maybe not quite, but that is what I celebrate on the 4th of July. Summertime and food.

This year my beau and I created an extravagant feast for all our friends. We cooked all day and the night before preparing ribs, pasta salads, baked beans, grilled corn, green bean and tomato salads, dips and snacks. One of my favorite things we ate was from a new cookbook I have, “Peace, Love, and Barbeque” by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe.

From this fun new cookbook, we decided to make some baked beans. Not only baked beans, but baked beans from scratch. Sure, they took a lot of time, but they were low on effort and high on taste. They were completely worth it and glorious. One of my friends, upon tasting them said, “I never really understood the point of baked beans before these.” They’re that good. So, make the perfect side this summer and enjoy some amazing baked beans. They’ll make you remember why people make them in the first place.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe, but with two small exceptions. I didn’t have any bacon in my freezer (which is shocking), but I did have some country ham. So, I chopped that up instead and it was awesome. I think it is safe to say that most pork products would serve your needs. Also, I didn’t take the time to make the “Magic Dust” seasoning. I just used some Emeril’s original seasoning and it was awesome. But, I’ve included the Magic Dust recipe as well in case you want to go all out.

Judy Mills’s From-Scratch Baked Beans

1 pound dried great northern beans
4 to 6 slices bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups ketchup (I like Hunt’s)
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (I like French’s)
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Magic Dust (recipe below)

Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with salted water by 2 to 3 inches. Soak the beans overnight.

The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Return the beans to the saucepan and cover with fresh water by about 4 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but not bursting open.

While the beans are cooking, mix the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder, and Magic Dust together in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon. Drain the bacon on paper towels, crumble it, and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. The onion should still be a little crunchy.

Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the bean water. Pour the beans and bean water into the bowl with the sauce. Add the bacon and onion and stir to combine well. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Magic Dust

Makes about 2 cups


  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup granulated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne
Mix all ingredients and store in a tightly covered container. You’ll want to keep some in a shaker next to the grill or stove. Keeps indefinitely but won’t last long.


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