03 February, 2009

New England Baked Beans

Baked beans were a staple at my house when we were growing up. My mother never failed to have a couple of cans of B&M Baked Beans in the cupboard. They were cheap and easy, and they were, I have to admit, pretty good. It wasn't until I was in my 20's and out on my own that I tried to make my very own homemade baked beans. I'm glad I did - making beans is easy and, while not as inexpensive as buying a can at the supermarket - a lot better tasting.

You can make baked beans in a crock pot, but they really do come out better in a genuine beanpot. The design of the pot, with the wide shoulder and narrow mouth, is designed to limit the amount of moisture that escapes as the beans cook, holding them at the perfect temperature and humidity as they bake. Luckily, it's common to find bean pots in excellent condition at yard sales, church rummage sales, and estate sales for a very reasonable price - I've never paid more than $8.00 for any of mine, and most of the time they're $5 or under - and in excellent condition (check the pot out carefully before you buy it and don't buy one with any cracks or without a lid.)

My recipe, which follows, is one I have developed over the past 20 years. It calls for maple syrup as the sweetener, which makes it easy to get the flavor just right. You can substitute brown sugar, sugar and mollasses, or -- ::shudder:: -- corn syrup if you like.

Dave's New England Baked Beans
Makes about 2 quarts.

1 pound dry Navy or white pea beans
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 dash of salt
1 dash of HOT Hungarian paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 pound of lean salt pork brisket
10 to 12 ounces of maple syrup

Rinse and pick through the beans; cover deeply with plenty of water and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minutes, the remove from the heat to set aside for 1 hour. This "quick soak" eliminates the need to allow the beans to soak overnight in water.

While the beans are soaking, prepare the bean pot. Chop the onions and put them on the bottom of the pot. Add the mustard, ginger, dash of salt, and optional dash of hot pepper. Cut the salt pork into chunks and add that to the pot as well.

After the beans have soaked for an hour, you'll notice that they're bigger and plumper-looking than they were before. They're still not ready to bake, though. First, they must be boiled yet again. Bring them quickly to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook them for 10 - 15 minutes. You'll know that they're ready when you can take a spoonful of them from the pot, blow on them, and the skins will split and curl away.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Drain the beans but reserve the hot water, and put the beans into the pot on top of the other ingredients. It's not necessary to stir.

Pour in a cup (8 ounces) of maple syrup into the pot, followed by a cup of the reserved hot water. Then, pour another 2 to 4 ounces of syrup in and follow that with enough additional reserved hot water to just cover the beans a little. The more syrup you put in, the sweeter the beans will come out. I've found that ten ounces total of syrup is "just right" to my taste, and 12 ounces total makes it noticeably sweeter.

Put the lid on the bean pot and place into your 300 F oven for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250 F and bake the beans for 8 to 12 hours. I like to put them in the oven on a Saturday night around 7 or 8 PM. By the time I'm getting up on Sunday morning, the whole house smells like delicious baked beans, and I'll have a serving of them with breakfast.


starrkisst said...

mmmm.... i'm thinking i'll have to visit our local thrift store and look for a bean pot. as soon as i find one, i'll give your recipe a whirl.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with two things in your recipe. I don't think they need that second boil and you never said to check them after about three hours after you put them in and add aditional water if nesesary. I'm sure your been are delicious!

private noted. said...

This is worth the bean pot and recipe for a large family summer gathering, Thank You.