There are many great recipes for Baked Beans on these forums, and I've read them all, but how can I tell if one is a true recipe for New England Baked Beans? Can anyone help? Many thanks.
I like this recipe from The Durgin-Park Cookbook. Never add ketchup to NE baked beans.
1 lb.(2 cups) dried navy beans
1/2 lb. salt pork, cut in half
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark molasses
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Place beans in a heavy saucepan, fill with water 1/2 inch above the beans, and boil for 25 to 30 minutes. The beans will be tender; do not overlook. (place a bean between thumb and forefinger and pinch. The outer shell should slip off.). Drain and rinse, saving the stock.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place half the salt pork in the bottom of a large ovenproof pot. Add the beans, sugar, molasses, mustard, and s & p. Top with the other half of the salt pork. Bake for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Let the beans rest 30 minutes before serving.
Here's how I do it....almost the same recipe. this came from the 1918 Fanny farmer cookbook.
Boston Baked Beans
Pick over one quart pea beans, cover with cold water, and soak over night. In morning, drain, cover with fresh water, heat slowly (keeping water below boiling-point), and cook until skins will burst,�which is best determined by taking a few beans on the tip of a spoon and blowing on them, when skins will burst if sufficiently cooked. Beans thus tested must, of course, be thrown away. Drain beans, throwing bean-water out of doors, not in sink. Scald rind of three-fourths pound fat salt pork, scrape, remove one-fourth inch slice and put in bottom of bean-pot. Cut through rind of remaining pork every one-half inch, making cuts one inch deep. Put beans in pot and bury pork in beans, leaving rind exposed. Mix one tablespoon salt, one tablespoon molasses, and three tablespoons sugar; add one cup boiling water, and pour over beans; then add enough more boiling water to cover beans. Cover bean-pot, put in oven, and bake slowly six or eight hours, uncovering the last hour of cooking, that rind may become brown and crisp. Add water as needed. Many feel sure that by adding with seasonings one-half tablespoon mustard, the beans are more easily digested. If pork mixed with lean is preferred, use less salt.
The fine reputation which Boston Baked Beans have gained has been attributed to the earthen bean-pot with small top and bulging sides in which they are supposed to be cooked. Equally good beans have often been eaten where a five-pound lard pail was substituted for the broken bean pot. 22
Yellow-eyed beans are very good when baked. 23
Here's an article I wrote about 15 years ago for a trade magazine.
Boston Baked Beans
The first and foremost important item in the recipe is the BEAN POT. Forget the pressure cookers, bean roasters, crock-pots and the like; the only way to produce authentic Boston Baked Beans is with a bean pot. The best bean pots are crockery with tight fitting lids. Now I have two bean pots, one I inherited from my Grandmother, the other I inherited from my mother. Grandma's bean pot is heavy crockery and was produced in the late 1800's. My mother's bean pot is lighter weight possibly stoneware. Mom received it as a wedding present in the 1940's. The two pots produce entirely different beans even if I use the same ingredients AND bake them at the same time. Grandma's pot produces tender beans with a thick juice while my mother's produces firmer beans with a thinner consistency juice. I prefer the beans from Grandma's pot.
The second most important thing is a slow oven. Now I'm not talkin' slow like an old hound but rather a low even temperature oven that allows the flavors to meld and mellow. Baked beans like plenty of foreplay, you know slow and gentle warmth not a blast of heat and don't forget the bath. Beans like to be soaked in cold water for at least a couple or so hours before baking. Some say to soak 'em overnight or heaven forbid parboil 'em, I prefer to soak 'em three hours but bake them longer in the oven. Either way produces a tender bean, the difference is my beans have "baked and bathed" in the delightful melange of flavors longer and hence are infused with the essence of the dish.
Finally baking beans is an art to be savored not rushed. Great beans are created through slow, time honored traditional methods, no New York minutes allowed here. Baking beans is an all day siege requiring a watchful yet patient eye. Be prepared to "set a spell and take your shoes off".
OK so now that you understand the philosophy of bean bakin' here's the recipe:
1 lbs. dried beans (kidney or pea/navy beans)
1/2 lb. lean salt pork
1 large yellow onion, cut in half
1 1/2 cups molasses
1 heapin' tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar or honey
Don't forget a large bean pot with the cover wrapped in aluminum foil. (Since the knobs on bean pot covers tend to be squat and shallow, by wrapping the cover in foil, you can grab the edges of the foil to remove the cover hence saving your fingers from burns and your cover from a Frisbee-like fatal flight to the floor.
Soak beans in cold water at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove any floating beans or debris. Preheat oven to 250. Adjust racks to bottom half of oven. Rinse beans in a colander. Rub the inside of the bean pot with the salt pork. Place beans in bean pot. Add molasses, brown sugar and mustard. Stir mixture gently. Place onion halves in beans and press down into bean mixture. Place the salt pork on top of bean mixture. Add enough hot water to just cover beans completely. Cover bean pot and place in oven. Bake beans for 8 hours, checking beans every 2 hours and adding water as needed. If the top beans appear very dry, you may stir the beans very gently. There's an old adage about the disastrous results of stirring the beans so use restraint or you'll "bruise" the beans. During the last 2 hours, you should just barely be able to see the juice in the beans. Don't add too much water toward the end or you'll end up with soupy beans.
To serve, remove the salt pork from the top of the beans, stir the beans (yes it's ok), place the bean pot on a trivet on the table and serve. Purists cool and slice the salt pork for sandwiches made with butter, salt pork and sugar or in the modern adaptation butter, catsup and salt pork. (Keeps the cardiologists hoppin'.) The beans freeze well for later use.
Moosemac, that was a good read. I have made all kinds of baked beans and your recipe sounds great. I also use a bean pot that I bought, it's handmade stoneware.
I have dried beans and everything else in the pantry and salt pork in the refrigerator. The next cool day, I'll put them together and stick them in the oven.
Do you ever use maple syrup in your beans?
Yes I have used maple syrup in place of the honey/brown sugar. I have a hard time justifying the usage; it's so expensive!
I haven't had "real" baked beans since I moved down here. Moosemac your description and recipe are spot on from what I have eaten at friends homes in the past, and I am definitely going to dig out my bean pot from storage (it is old, but I used it for decorative purposes only) clean it up and use ot for what it was intended! Come on cool weather!
Thanks for sharing :-)
Loved the description MM. I want to try some of these again, my first attempt was not so good. I think I got old beans, they never seemed to get "creamy" enough for my taste. How do you feel about Great Northerns? I seem to have more luck with those than with Navy beans.
Any dried bean or pea you prefer is fine. DH prefers kidney beans while DD prefers black beans or baked peas. FIL prefers navy beans. I usually end up making a batch of each to keep everyone happy. It's just as easy to make 3 pots as one and since baked beans freeze well, it's not an issue.