Sunday, February 23, 2014

Boston Baked Beans

I don't do enough with dried beans.  Why don't I?  It's cheaper, and frankly I'll do anything to avoid using our can opener (do you hate your can opener? Is it just me?  If so, please tell me what can opener I should buy).  Yes it does take a bit more pre-planning, since they do need to be soaked overnight, but rumor has it that the soaking breaks down the sugars in beans that make them... well, gaseous.  So you can digest them a bit easier.  Plus, soaked beans are just creamier and far more amazing than beans from a can.  I've heard myself sound like this before... I dare say I am becoming a  bean snob, kind of like what happened to me about pre-grated cheese, canned pumpkin, and box mix!

Anyway, my mom has been truly begging for baked beans for months.  I bought all the ingredients before Christmas, and for some reason, never could get my act together to make them.  I acted like the overnight soaking was too much to plan, or something ridiculous like that.  Tuesday night, my mom was feeling a little down in the dumps (mostly because all her daughters were being cranky and having bad days themselves!) and so to cheer her up, I told her to get the beans soaking, and I'd make them the next day.  That worked quite well, and Wednesday morning (I love February vacation!) I got up early and got to work.  And really there isn't that much work - although I will not say that I liked cooking (or cutting) the salt pork!  But then all you do is literally throw everything together into a pot and bake.  Then add more water, and bake.  And add more water, and bake.  Sounds difficult, right?  It was time consuming - they bake for over 3 hours - so you have to be home, but you don't have to do all that much work.  And frankly, I wasn't even home: I had Susie bean-sit while we took Alex to the airport.

By the time we got home, the kitchen smelled like Boston baked beans: a thick, rich sauce flavored with everything from mustard to brown sugar to maple syrup to apple cider vinegar - lots of flavor going on.  The beans are smooth and creamy, and the salt pork... well obviously I have no idea what that's like, because I studiously picked around it, but I hear it's great :)  My beans were very popular, and Susie even took some home.  My family is still eating it today.  I will caution you to make sure you don't take them out of the oven before they are ready; I made two pots of beans, and one cooked perfectly but the other one has beans that are a bit harder than I'd like.  Just take your time, be patient, and enjoy some good old fashioned New England-style baked beans :)


Boston baked beans]

from A Family Feast
yield 6-8 servings


1 pound dry navy beans
1/2 pound salt pork, rind left on and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups onion, sliced thick
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
6 cups of water, divided


1) Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts of water.

2) Drain and rinse beans.  

3) In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook salt pork, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on all sides.

4) Add all other ingredients except the water.  Stir, and add 2 cups of water.

5) Place in the oven, covered, and cook for 90 minutes.  Stir, and add 2 more cups of water.

6) Bake for 90 more minutes.  Stir, and add the last cup of water.  Continue cooking until they are tender - just make sure they don't burn if the sauce is very thick.

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