Erin Anais Heist’s prepares baked bean with a barbeque sauce made from high-bush cranberries on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist’s prepares baked bean with a barbeque sauce made from high-bush cranberries on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Eating Wild: Spicy Baked Beans with Highbush Cranberry

It’s a commonly held belief that taste and smell are the senses most closely tied to memory. The smell of highbush cranberries is unmistakable — pungent and musky. I love it. It’s the smell of the return of early evening twilight and crisp September days.

In a land of evergreen spruce, hemlock and cedar, the beautiful gold and maroon of high-bush cranberry shrubs as they turn each fall is a breath of fresh air. We had a highbush cranberry shrub in our front yard growing up, but these days I pick them along the edges of muskegs. It’s best to wait until after the first frost so the berries can sweeten a little, although you don’t want to wait too late in the season otherwise they’ll get a little mushy. The berries are translucent when ripe and grow in easy-to-pick clusters.

Growing up, my mom always made the cooperative extension’s “highbush cranberry ketchup” although I think it’s a little closer in style to a barbecue sauce than ketchup. It’s a staple in our kitchen and is especially good paired with salmon or venison. The strong distinctive flavor of highbush cranberries stands up well to game meat and other strong savory dishes.

These are not your grandma’s baked beans: the highbush cranberry ketchup gives them depth, the chipotle some heat, and the smoked porter a little tang. You can use any porter or stout, but I like using Alaskan Smoked Porter, which is especially nice to use if you want some of that smokiness when you’re not using bacon, which I tend to leave out if I’m making beans for a potluck. Of course, bacon does truly make everything more delicious, so if you’re not trying to keep the beans vegan or pork-free, fry up five or six slices before the onion, dice, and then mix in with the sauce and beans before baking.

Spicy Baked Beans with Highbush Cranberry

Time: 30 minutes active, 2.5 hours total

Serves: 8-10

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil

• 1 large onion

• 1 ½ cups highbush cranberry ketchup (Cooperative extension recipe) – you can barbecue sauce

• ¾ cup Alaskan Smoked Porter – or any porter or stout

• 3 tbsp dijon mustard

• 3 tbsp brown sugar

• 2 tbsp molasses

• 2 tbsp Worchester sauce

• 1 tbsp soy sauce

• 1-2 tbsp canned chipotle peppers, diced

• 5 cans Great Northern beans

• ¼ cup parsley, diced

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Saute onion in the oil over medium heat until just cooked. Whisk together the onion, cranberry ketchup, porter, mustard, sugar, Worchester, soy sauce, and chipotle peppers. For the peppers, keep the seeds if you’d like to keep it spicy, remove the seeds for medium, and leave out the chipotle for mild.

Combine the sauce with the beans in a 13-by-9 pan and bake until sauce is no longer soupy, about two hours.

Remove from the oven, mix in parsley and serve.


• Erin Anais Heist is a food blogger in Juneau. Readers can contact her at foodabe.com, or on Instagram or Twitter at @erinanais. “Eating Wild” recipes publish every other week.


High-bush cranberries are seen on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

High-bush cranberries are seen on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist, left, and her mother, Kate Troll, walk to pick high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist, left, and her mother, Kate Troll, walk to pick high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist picks high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist picks high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist holds a handful of high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist holds a handful of high-bush cranberries on Douglas Island on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in Home

Alexei Painter, director of Alaska’s Legislative Finance Division, presents an update of the state’s budget situation for the coming year to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Analysis: Balanced state budget next year can include a $1,535 PFD and $680 BSA increase

However, a “statutory” $3,688 PFD would result in a deficit of more than $1.2 billion, report says.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development at its meeting Wednesday in Juneau. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s education board sends a $500M wish list for construction and maintenance to lawmakers

The state’s Board of Education and Early Development approved a priority list… Continue reading

A mountain biker takes advantage of a trail at Eaglecrest Ski Area during the summer of 2022. The city-owned resort is planning to vastly expand its summer activities with a new gondola and the facilities by 2026. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Eaglecrest’s big summertime plans, including the gondola, get OK from planning commission

Ski area also planning new summit lodge, snowtubing park, bike trails and picnic pavilion by 2026.

(Getty Images)
Alaska Republicans head to the polls Tuesday with Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy on the ballot

On Super Tuesday, March 5, Alaska Republicans will join their counterparts in… Continue reading

Students, parents and teachers rally outside Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé prior to a school board meeting Tuesday, seeking a change in the board’s decision to consolidate Juneau’s two high schools beginning with the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Layoffs and larger classes planned along with consolidation at local schools, but BSA increase would help

District leaders not counting on funds approved by Legislature, due to veto threat by governor.

Spruce Root was invited by the U.S. Forest Service to help roll out the Tongass National Forest Plan Revision process. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich)
Resilient Peoples and Place: Stronger Together in 2024 — A letter from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership

Founded in 2012, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) is an Indigenous values-led… Continue reading

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks March 20, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Proposal to define a fetus as a person in Alaska’s criminal code faces pushback

Opponents testified that the bill would threaten Alaskans’ abortion rights

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves bigger merit scholarship for in-state high school students

The Alaska House of Representatives voted on Monday without opposition to raise… Continue reading

Most Read