Boston Style Baked Beans
- Janet Calvin
The only recipe for baked beans I could find in my cookbook collection was a not very satisfying one in the JOY OF COOKING.
I have aprox. two quarts of pot beans left over and a hamhock. Any recipe suggestions for baked beans would be apreciated. Thanks.
There are many older threads on this, e.g. at the link below.
Now, up in the woods of Maine, you are more likely to get baked beans made with Steuben Yellow Eye beans (a thin-skinned bean instead of the thicker skinned pea bean or navy bean) and maple syrup (not too much, instead of molasses). More bean-y and very delicious too. Maine baked beans are another tradition worth exploring.
re: Karl S.
Thanks for the previous link and recipes above. I did do a quick search of the Home Cooking board. It never occured to me to search the New England board.
Being Californian born and bred, baked beans are not in my cooking repertoire. Guess I better get busy!
Link below is a mail order bean source. If you live in the SF bay area, it's an excuse to take a trip down the coast to Pescadero or visit them at the SF Ferry Plaza farmers market.
re: Janet Calvin
That link shows a link for info on the Calypso bean, which is another name for Steuben Yellow Eye. It's a thin-skinned beans -- so it tends to lose its shape a bit more with long baking compared to thick-skinned beans like navy or pea beans. But it has a velvet texture and rich flavor, and is worth using in baked beans if you don't mind things not looking as pristinely individual as in canned beans.
I just did a quick scan of several cookbooks, The New York Times Heritage Cookbook, James Beard's American Cookery, and Yankee Magazine's Great New England Cookery and compared them to the recipe in Joy. They are all pretty much the same. One calls for Maple Syrup another calls for molasses. Most seem to call for some sort of tomato, usually catsup. They all want salt pork and dry mustard. That said, my dad used to make some pretty good baked beans. He used dark rum and pepperoni in them instead of salt pork and a sweetner. I think it is more a case of starting with the basics and then "improving" on the theme.
Ouch. Tomatoes or ketchup do not go near baked beans in New England, Boston or Maine. Molasses is the tradition of the coastal areas (due to the Triangle Trade) and maple syrup of the interior north.
I dug out my copy of the Thornes' immortal "Serious Pig", which really clarifies and distills the Real Thing. Here is a comparison of ingredients for two types of Maine baked beans, coastal (Down East) -- which is a close cousin of Boston-style -- and Up North.
1 pound yellow eye beans (ed.: can substitute navy beans, but yellow eyes are more delicately textured and richly flavored)
1/4 pound salt pork (ed.: the Real Deal in olden times was pickled pork from the barrel)
1/2 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap: Crosby's Gold Star is the Maine standard for Barbados molasses)
2 tbs dark rum
1 tsp dry mustard
Salt & pepper
1 pound Jacob's cattle bean or soldier beans (red kidney beans will do in a pinch, remark the Thornes)
1/4 pound thick, country style bacon
1/3 cup maple syrup (ed.: Grade B is the best, Dark Amber after that)
1/3 apple cider jelly
1 tsp dry mustard
Salt and pepper
As for procedure, the OP has already parboiled the beans. Beans are ready for final cooking when you can blow the skin apart on them. There are two schools of thought about the pork: some like to cut them up into pieces (the Thornes are in this camp) while others prefer to keep the pieces as large as possible and cut them up after cooking -- I prefer the latter when using really good pork products (like country bacon or double-smoked bacon, et cet.), otherwise it doesn't matter.
The most important thing is to have a very slow oven: 250F is best, 275F will do, but no higher. A proper bean pot is ideal because of the way it tapers and recycles condensation, but a heavy covered pot will of course work, too, just with more variation compared to a bean pot. The ingredients above are for the standard 2.5 qt bean pot, btw.
Normally you put the beans in the pot, nestle the pork into the top of them, and mix the flavorings with boiling water and pour over the beans to cover. If beans were parboiled but not cooked all the way through, baking might take 8 hours; otherwise, 5-6? Hard to tell with precooked beans. During the last hour of cooking, you can remove the cover and let the liquid reduce and thicken; this is a good time to adjust salt, pepper and sweetener levels to your liking. Baked beans are very forgiving that way.
In terms of less traditional flavorings to add: putting a peeled whole onion in the bottom of the pot is very common (you slice it up after baking if you want it back in the pot, or toss it if you don't). Purists blanch at the suggestion of Worcestershire sauce and (horrors) cognac, for which I was ribbed in older threads, but if you want some bitter flavors to balance the sweet (common among us in New England, where Krispy Kreme is having problems because their donuts are too sweet for many of our tastes), they can work wonders. But they are not traditional. Ketchup and tomato only make things sweeter, which is not the way to go; a dash of cider vinegar, however, can be very, very nice as a balance.
Finally, like my mom, I like to bake mine overnight (so I get up early to remove the cover): the smell of beans baking in the house overnight is beyond delicious, and they make fantastic breakfast. Just like a slice of apple pie and chunk of sharp Vermont cheddar cheese.
re: Karl S.
God bless ya!
I prefer mine Down East style and I do add the onion and rather a bit more mustard. But tomato of any kind is blasphemy. The Thornes' piece on baked beans is one of my favorite piece of food writing.
I like mine at breakfast as well, with over easy eggs and either New England brown bread or Irish brown bread (which are of course two very different products, but both work well with the beans).
And Krispy Kremes make my teeth hurt. Blah.
re: Karl S.
Lovely. I love my little garage-sale le crueset pot particularly for making baking beans. And I always make some Boston Brown Bread to go with it--rye flour, ww flour, cornmeal, a little baking soda, mixed with buttermilk, raisins, and eggs (I think), then steamed for a long time in a big pot of water. Delicious with butter or cream cheese. Bake some squash with maple syrup and/or saute some tough winter greens with olive oil, garlic and lemon for a warming winter dinner.