Pat: Every Fourth of July, Mama Neely made her famous baked beans: she'd brown ground beef and then doctor that beef with molasses, brown sugar, and plenty of spices. Let me tell you, those beans were good. And so are these. We've found that using smoked sausage in place of the ground beef (or pork shoulder, as in our restaurant recipe) adds a smoky depth to the dish. Once you make these beans, there is no going back. If you want to put your own spin on it, you can use kidney beans instead of pork and beans, but I say my mama's way is best.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven set over medium- high heat. Once it's hot, toss in the onion and garlic, and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the sausage, and continue to cook until the meat has browned, about 4 minutes more. Stir in the pork and beans, ketchup, molasses, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and hot sauce. Bring the beans up to a simmer, then put in the hot oven for 45 minutes, uncovered, until the mixture is bubbly and thick.
Recipe courtesy The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook: Down-Home Meals for Every Occasion, by Pat Neely, Gina Neely and Ann Volkwein