Boston Baked Beans
Most is overnight soaking of the beans. And though a long cooking time, the prep is so simple a cook of any skill level can master.
I remember winter afternoons when my Mum would have two pots of these (1 navy, 1 red kidney) baking in the oven for Saturday suppers of beans, franks and brown bread. Low and slow, with the aromas filling the air. Old fashioned comfort food for days filled with family time either out in the snow or day-long board and card games. (A next-day favorite of my Dad's was a cold bean sandwich with a bit of sweet relish.) Enjoy!
1 pkg(1 lb.) dry beans, navy or red kidney (1 lb. pkgs usually found in market with other dried legumes used in soups)
3/4 tspbaking soda
8 ozlean salt pork, cubed (see hints)
2 tspdry mustard
2 Tbspbrown sugar, firmly packed (i prefer dark, but light is fine, too)
1 1/2 ctomato juice (see hints)
1/2 cdark molasses (here, using dark is the best way to go to properly enrich the lengthy cooking time)
·salt and pepper (see hints)
HERE'S THE BASICS, BUT CHECK THE HINTS, TOO!
How to Make Boston Baked Beans
- Prep begins the night before cooking.
Rinse beans, checking for any small pebbles or grit (these days, I never seem to find any, but it never hurts to make sure) and drain. Refill with clean water and let soak overnight, approximately 8 hours.
In the morning, drain and rinse beans once more with clean water before adding to recipe.
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
Combine the dry ingredients, and mix with the wet ingredients.
Put all ingredients in bean pot (see picture) or heavy casserole/dutch oven. (I usually will 'layer' some of the salt pork cubes on the bottom first, and then add beans, diced onions and spices.)
Cover with boiling water, stir, cover, and place in preheated oven.
- Bake for approximately 6 hrs at 325F, stirring each hour and adding additional boiling/simmering water as needed.
Don't be afraid of what might seem to be 'extra' water for the first few hours as the beans will absorb the liquid slowly throughout the cooking process, drawing in all the flavors.
At the check for the last hour's cooking, this is when you taste for salt and can add a bit more if needed. You can also gauge whether you'll need to add any more water or not, depending on the final consistency you prefer. If the beans seem too watery for your tastes, you can remove the cover for the final hour of cooking, but I'd be careful to check a couple of times so that too much of the liquid is not lost. You can always return the cover for the last minutes if needed.
- HINT #1: SALT PORK
Salt pork comes prepackaged in approximately 1 lb. often found in the prepackaged ham section of the supermarket's meat department. I'm not a fan of that huge glob of fat I'm sure you've seen in canned beans, so I always look over the packages and choose the one closest to at least a 50/50 ratio lean to fat. When preparing I trim all the 'rind' and most of the fat from what I cube to use that day. If you have any left over it freezes nicely just like any other meat for future use. When I plan ahead, I'll buy the salt pork early enough to freeze it for an hour or so before trimming and cubing as this extra chill can make it easier to cut.
- HINT #2: TOMATO JUICE
My grandmother and mother always used tomato juice but several years ago while experimenting I came upon a substitution I much prefer -- Heinz Chili Sauce, found with ketchups in the grocery. It has a more intense layer of flavor, and I think the consistency adds body as well.
- Hint #3 SALT
Be sparing with the salt when you're first mixing your spices. Remember that you are using SALT pork, and you are cooking for a l-o-n-g time so you have plenty of opportunity to taste at the last hour and add more if needed.
I start with no more than 1 tsp. at the beginning and I'm usually lighter than fuller on that measurement. And even if you find you need more salt at that last hour's tasting, be sparing! adding no more than 1/4 tsp at a time. You can let that 1/4 tsp cook in for 30 minutes and then taste again -- and I'll bet you won't need to add more.
As we all know, you can always add more salt, but you can't take it away!
- HINT #4 PEPPER
I love my pepper. As with the salt, however, I use it sparingly in the beginning because there's always time to add more to this slow-cooking recipe. I usually start with 1 tsp in the initial spice mixture.
My secret kicker -- I divide that into half ground black pepper, and half red pepper flakes which I find give a nice little 'back' heat to the palate.
Sometimes in that final tasting my taste buds want a bit more kick, so I'll add a few drops of chili oil or (one of my favorites) 'hot' sesame oil. But just as with the salt, be sparing! and taste again in 30 minutes before the finishing bake time.
- HINT #5 WATER
It's crucial that the water you add throughout the recipe is just off the boil, at a good simmer. Otherwise you'll lower the cooking temperature and it will take a long time to recover to the proper cooking temperature so it can really muck with the final consistency and tenderness of the beans.
I keep a half-full teakettle on the stove for just this purpose on the lowest possible setting so it's handy to add when needed.
- HINT #6 MESSY OVEN???
I line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil and set the bean pot in that. Makes it much easier to maneuver, and catches any sticky stuff that might overflow.
- And finally, HINT #7 BAKING SODA???
Yep, that's in the recipe to help with the ...ahem... potential gaseous problem. Dare I share this little ditty.....? (I can still hear my Mum laughing this under her breath at SOME point during the baking when this was Saturday night's supper -- I don't think she even realized she was saying it, to tell the truth!) ;o}
the musical fruit
The more you eat
the more you toot
The more you toot
the better you feel
And now you're ready
for another meal