Recipe: Peachy Keen Calico Beans

Cooking and eating have a way of evoking all kinds of emotions. Some are good and others bad. Today’s recipe has elicited both sides of the coin for me. But this recipe is so delicious that the good guys win! 

When I was five we moved from Chicago to California. I didn’t know it at the time but it was the beginning of the end of my parents’ marriage. My dad was still living in Chicago as he was a fireman. My mom went back to Chicago one weekend and I was sad because  I missed my dad so much and she wouldn’t take me with her. But I was comforted with the knowledge that my aunt and uncle were going to babysit my brothers and me. That was until I saw what they were serving for dinner. Pork and Beans! Or baked beans as they are called in this part of the world.

I have a great palate and eat almost everything.  But I didn’t like the taste nor the texture of the beans. So I kept playing with my food hoping they would just excuse me from the table. That didn’t happen.  What did happen was they used a tube of red lipstick and drew a round circle, a bullseye, around my mouth. Their thinking was then I wouldn’t miss the target and I’d get the spoonfuls of beans inside! I got the beans in alright, but I actually got sick and vomited at the table. And that was the beginning of my acrimonious relationship with beans!

I actually can’t believe I am about to share a recipe after telling you a story like that! Okay here let’s take our mind off that with a good story. Cut to decades later and I tasted some beans at a friend’s BBQ. She said they were a recipe passed down in her family called Calico Beans. Super easy to make and quite sweet. And they were more like a stew or a pot of chili as opposed to just some beans swimming in a red sauce. I loved them and recently have been craving them. I don’t have her recipe but I’ve recreated it here and it is a keeper. Even if you are like me and have had a rocky road with beans in the past.

If possible try to use low sugar ketchup and beans as I have here.


400 g (15 oz) pound ground (minced) turkey or beef
4 oz (115 g) bacon, diced
1 clove of garlic minced and 1 medium onion, chopped
2 (415 g/16 ounce) tins (cans) pork and beans, undrained
1 (400 g/15 ounce) tin (can) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (400 g/15 ounce) tin (can) butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared dry mustard
1 (400 g/15 oz) tin (can) of peaches, drained

Pepper and salt to taste (the bacon will add quite a lot of sodium so you won’t need to add much more)


Preheat the oven to 325 F/170c. Alternatively, you could make this in a slow cooker. Just follow recipe up to ** then instead of putting in a casserole dish for the oven put in the slow cooker. Add the peaches the last hour of cooking.

Cook the bacon and minced/ground meat of your choice in an oven safe casserole pan. When cooked, remove with a slotted spoon to a kitchen paper towel lined plate to drain. Remove most of the left over oil leaving a bit. If you are using turkey meat there might not be any, in which case you can add a bit of olive oil to the pot. Now cook the onion and garlic until soft.**

Add back into the pot of cooked onion/garlic the cooked meat and bacon, then add the beans, mustard, vinegar, ketchup, and brown sugar. Stir and cook in the oven for 30 mins. Then add the peaches to the pot and cook another 10-15 minutes until heated through. Alternatively you can add the peaches with everything else, they will just break up a bit. I like mine a bit firmer which is why I put them in towards the end.

Serve as a side dish with some BBQ steak or burgers and corn on the cob, or as a main dish with a side of corn bread and a salad.

While living in Dublin and now London I have witnessed countless feasts simply from opening a can of beans.  Beans on toast, full English breakfast complete with baked beans, and even a kids’ meal called Pirate’s Pie, which is a piece of fish on a bed of baked beans and topped with creamy mashed potato. I could think of nothing worse than any of those three items. And I know it is 99.9% psychological, childhood trauma!  Because one of the main ingredients in this recipe is canned baked beans. And I can’t get enough once I start eating this dish!

Not intentional subliminal messaging, but it does say, “Bargain” on my cloth! Because it will fill up a whole family for under a tenner!

I am not going to apologize to Van Camps or Heinz & Co for my love/hate, but I will say that this dish is a winner. It is healthy and a great budget meal. So to me it’s Peachy Keen!

Beans of LOVE,


P.S. As a gag gift one year for my birthday my aunt and uncle gave me a vat sized can of Pork & Beans. And guess what? I didn’t throw them away as they suspected! It just meant more batches of Peachy Keen Calico Beans!


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