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Boston Baked Beans

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Is Boston Baked Beans supposed to be a really sweet dish? I don't like the canned versions.

I made my own version using a couple of online recipes as guides. I liked my concoction better than what I've bought in cans. But this was a first try and I'm sure they could be better than what I made. That's why I'm asking about it here.

I used 3 or 4 cups great northern beans, almost fully cooked (that was the cooked amount, not raw)
4 c pork broth
2 pork chops, cooked in that broth, broken into pieces (the broth was made from 4 pork chops, 2 of which disappeared)
2 T prepared plain old mustard
3 oz canned tomato sauce
3 oz molasses (Brer Rabbit's full-flavored as opposed to their lighter flavored)
half a large yellow onion, finely diced
about 1.5 T cider vinegar
5 slices of bacon, cut into little bits
2 large cloves garlic, diced fine
salt to taste

I cooked the above on the stove top about an hour. The liquid was about level with the beans after that time. The beans were just tender.

Then I put that into a casserole dish and baked at 325 F, uncovered. Once the liquid got a little below the level of the beans I put the cover on and cooked another 2 hours. The result was beans in a thick sauce, though not as thick as the canned stuff, with pork bits that were tender yet definitely added to texture, and a slightly sweet sauce, but more spicy than sweet. There was black pepper from the pork broth.

I like the result and I'd also like to know any suggestions for making it better. I won't be surprised if people tell me I shouldn't be calling this Boston Baked Beans.:smiles:
post #2 of 29
I suppose you could use a ham bone instead of pork chops if you want that yummy smoky porky flavor....add it to the beans and cook it with them. I usually cook a huge pot of beans the week after "Ham Sunday"....and being a southern cook the side is always cornbread. In fact I did that just yesterday and as beans are better "leftover" they spent the nite in the fridge. Beans, cornbread, a few green onions and a huge glass of sweet tea....priceless.
post #3 of 29
Why not just call 'em Yeti's Baked Beans, and avoid any semblence of flaming? :look:

Most of the canned versions are steamed, not baked, and then added to the sauce---which almost always is heavily tomato based. Which is why, despite the ingredients, they lack the rich, full-bodied flavor of the ones you made.

Beans are not happy being cooked in tomato product. So if you go that route they should always be at least partially precooked ahead of time. Otherwise they take two days longer than forever to cook. And often never quite get there.

"Boston" or "New England" baked beans are ubiquitous to the Northeast. And there are as many variations as there are bean cooks. But they do have some things in common.

1. The bean of choice is either Yellow Eye or Vermont Cranberry. Being as these aren't widely available outside the region, other beans substitute---notably kidney, navy, or pea beans.

2. Salt pork is an integral component.

3. The finished dish is in a thick, somewhat sweet, sauce. Molasses is the most commonly used sweetener, but maple syrup is often used instead. In the old days, pumpkin syrup was often used.

4. The beans are very slow baked, preferably in a bean pot---a specialized clay pot. While in-the-oven baking is fine, traditionally the pot was buried.

FWIW, here is a variation using maple syrup:

Vermont Baked Beans

Soak 4 cups beans in cold water to cover overnight. Drain the beans, cover with fresh water, and cook them over low heat for about an hour.

Cut a thin slice from a 1-pound piece of salt pork and lay the slice on the bottom of a bean pot or deep casserole. On the meat put two whole onions, peeled, and half the beans. Add the remaining salt pork and the rest of the beans.

Combine 1/4 cup real maple syrup with a teaspoon of dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a cup of boiling water. Pour the mixture over the beans.

Add water almost to cover and bake the beans, covered, in a slow oven (300F) 6-8 hours, adding more water when the beans look dry. During the last hour of cooking uncover the pot or casserole. Discard the onions before serving the beans.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #4 of 29
dear yeti,
did you soak the beans overnight? i usually use navy beans,1 lb. bag, soak them and in the AM i add a pinch of baking soda and bring them just to a boil, drain and put in the beanpot. i add molasses, about 1 cup, brown sugar 1 cup and 1/4 lb. diced salt pork, cover with water and bake at 325 for 6 hrs. check liquid and add water as necessary. i add mustard and a squeeze of heinz at the end, more molasses if necessary. it's pretty much the recipe that's been used for about a 100 yrs. in the family. only canned version i use is bush's boston baked the old new england standby, B & M now uses corn syrup and they s*ck.
you could season these differently, but with the saltpork you wouldn't want to add salt. the saltpork is a staple ingredient along with the molasses. i've always thought it to be a "sweet" dish.
i recently found a decent pot on ebay for about $12, and that included the shipping.
post #5 of 29
I totally agree with soaking the beans overnight. I normally change the water.
Why is it that no matter how much water they ask you to use in a recipe, it is never enough ?
Do beans have a mind of there own ???

I have also found that cooking time can vary on almost every recipe.

FWIW> I have found that taking a cup out of the "Crock pot", or whatever dish you are using, and then "mash" it .....then add it back into the dish and let it cook for another half hour to give your "sauce" a thicker texture, creating a "gravy" effect.

"Yeti's Baked Beans".....sounds ok to me ! Bonne chance pour la prochaine fois.

a thought......

Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)

Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
post #6 of 29
Solid advice there. :) I often just put a stick blender in the pot for a few seconds.
Zip Zip done. Every time I use an immersion blender in beans I think of how much I miss the good ole days of pulling some beans out of the pot and putting them in the processor only to have the lid leak or not seat right and have hot flying bean dip every where......LOL
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #7 of 29
Not totally traditional and I use precooked and drained white beans:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Baked Beans

Recipe By :Mary Brown
Serving Size : 16 Preparation Time :0:45
Categories : sides

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 48oz jar cooked white beans -- drained
1 pound bacon -- fried until not quite crispy, reserve the fat
1 large onion -- peeled and chopped
8 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoons dry mustard
4 teaspoons salt -- optional
2 teaspoons black pepper -- or to taste, start with 1/2tsp
4 tablespoons bacon fat
water -- just to cover everything

combine everything in a bbq pit or oven safe dish or crockpot. Cook at 225 to 250 or on low for the crockpot for 8 to 10 hours

These get better after sitting a day or two.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks, all :^) These beans were almost fully cooked when I started. I had some extras from when I made ham and bean soup. I had soaked them overnight, drained, cooked most of the way, drained, rinsed, and then I used them in this recipe. Thanks for the suggestions. I've always been a bean lover and this is my "new thing".
post #9 of 29

Definitive Boston Baked beans

You need to go to THE source for Boston Baked Beans... Durgin Park restaurant

Durgin Park

This used to be the definitive Boston restaurant, (well, maybe along with Locke-Ober) feeding huge portions of workingman's victuals at long tables to the butchers working in the Faneuil Market area on a daily basis. Fanueil Market Place is now a chic tourist area, and Durgin Park has become a tourist trap, based on our latest, and last, visit there. (My first experiences at DP were in the late 1940's)

HOWEVER, the recipes (click on the "Recipes" link on their homepage) gives you, I think, the real, old recipe. Baked beans can't get more "Boston" than this. Note it's salt pork, not pork chops.

Do not neglect the Baked Indian Pudding recipe which follows the bean recipe. This has been a staple there for well over 100 years. It is to be served, hot, with a really good vanilla ice cream. DO NOT use Karo or any kind of corn syrup in place of the molasses. (But... blackstrap is too strong. Stick to a good robust dark molasses.) You will curse your fate that you haven't found this earlier in life. :smoking:

Mike :thumb:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks, MikeLM. I knew the pork chops weren't the real deal, but they were good in it. I'll have to try those Durgin Park recipes some time, as well as other suggestions here.
post #11 of 29
Oh my lord, Fanny Farmer is turning over in her grave.

Boston, or New England, Baked Beans most assuredly do not include any of the following:
Beans from a can or jar (shuddering here)
Tomatoes in any form
Pork chops
Pork broth

Beans are pea beans, navy, great northern, yellow eye, or soldier beans. Other kinds haven't even been available in New England until very recently. Baked red kidney beans are another dish altogether. Soak them overnight. Do not use the soaking water to cook them in unless everyone enjoys being very gassy.

They are preferably cooked in an old brown pot passed down for generations and made of some kind of clay or stone whose exact composition is lost to memory. A crock pot will also work.

Use SALT PORK, not those other piggy things.

Maple syrup, sugar, brown sugar, or molasses for sweetening. And the beans should definitely be sweet. One of the worst criticisms that can be leveled at New England baked beans is that they aren't sweet enough.

Dry mustard, salt and pepper.

Water to cover generously.

Cook all day.

No immersion blenders should come anywhere near this dish.

Sorry I can't give any measurements, but my grandmother, and her grandmother, and her grandmother...never measured and neither do I.
post #12 of 29
Agree with KCZ re everything but the onion. Many traditional "Boston Baked Beans" recipes do have onion. While you and generations of your family didn't use onions, nearly all others and their generations do and did.

A typical and felicitous ratio is 1 medium, brown onion to 2 cups uncooked beans.

Not meant as a critque your family's recipe which, I'm sure is delicious. Yummy even.

You pays your money and you takes your chances. Everyone a winner.

post #13 of 29
Thread Starter 
KCZ, I was waiting for that from someone :lol: I shoulda done as KYHeirloomer said and called 'em Yeti's Baked Beans. I'll make a traditional version. But I'll likely tweak it for my own taste, and I'll make sure to leave off the "Boston" :smiles:
post #14 of 29
The jarred beans came about when I was catering, I had to take a few shortcuts :lol: bacon is close to salt pork anyway!
post #15 of 29
Well, as I said, there are as many versions of Boston Baked Beans as there are bean cooks. To insist that one family's traditional version is the only true gelt is short-sighted at best.

F'rinstance, John Withee, who, before his death, was one of the foremost bean authorities in the world (his heirloom bean collection numbered more than 2,200 varieties, for instance) has a whole chapter on baked beans in his book, Growing and Cooking Beans. There are 13 recipes just for baked beans, plus additional recipes using baked beans.

John was also a Massacheusets resident whose family could be traced to the original settlers. So he was no stranger to New England cooking.

Here is his version of

Boston Baked Beans

2 pounds dry Navy or Pea beans
1/4 to 1/2 pound salt pork, scored to rind
1/2 to 1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Boiling water

Soak beans overnight. Bring to a boil in the same water and simmer until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 250F. Put beans in baking dish or bean pot, place salt pork in the center, add syrup, mustard, salt and pepper, and cover with boiling water. Bake for 8 hours.

Other kinds haven't even been available in New England until very recently.

Sorry, but this statement doesn't even come close to being factually correct. Just off the top of my head, I can list: cranberry beans, Vermont cranberry beans, Jacob's Cattle (also called Trout) beans, caseknife beans (which in the south were known as Clapboard beans), and Low's Champion Bean, in addition to the ones listed.

Whether or not they were used in Boston- or New England Baked Beans is anybody's guess; except for the Vermont Cranberry, which we know---from extant recipes--- was often a preferred choice.

In his 1863 opus Field and Garden Vegetables of America, Fearing Burr lists 54 varieties of beans. Fearing Burr was a New Englander whose book actually focuses on Northeastern varieties, and only those in common trade. So, if not all 54, certainly a fair percentage of that number were available in New England.

U.P. Hedrick's iconic Beans Of New York, has thirty five 9 x 12 pages describing common beans alone---not including wax varieties. Many, if not most, of them would have been grown throughout New England at one time or another.

Granted, many of these varieties would not have been used in their dried form. But, even so, there were far more of them than the five listed.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #16 of 29
I bow to the yanks. I agree that there are as many bean recipes as there are beans...and here below the Mason Dixon Line we have an age old argument. Salt pork or ham bone ( always a generous amt of juicy, salty meat clinging to the marrow rich bone). My family is in the ham bone camp. IMO salt pork should be renamed salt fat. Such a tiny bit of meat contributes nothing in the way of flavor. That being nephew in law is from Philadelphia and has promised to prepare his family's BBB recipe along with all the traditional sides. I am to bring dessert. Any ideas?
post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
Philly dessert?

Edit: dillonsmimi said traditional and I'm not sure about that.
post #18 of 29

Your oldtime recipe looks suspiciously like mine (and Fanny's). :lips:

I think some of those other bean varieties were cooked fresh (boiled) and then eaten or canned, rather than dried. They're traditionally called "shell beans" here.


Do experiment with maple syrup rather than molasses which can really alter the flavor of the dish. And hold on any tomato until the beans are nearly cooked.

post #19 of 29
Maple is very New England, but molasses is as Boston as all get out. From Colonial times, Boston was a locus of molasses commerce.

Remember the "triangle trade" (rum, molasses, slaves) from your history classes?

post #20 of 29
I do remember. I think maple syrup may have predated the triangle trade in New England though. The techniques for making syrup were obtained from native Americans by early settlers. I'm sure both maple syrup and molasses were used in the colonial baked beans, but personally I think maple syrup makes them taste better. :)
post #21 of 29
You're right, KCZ. Use of maple syrup did predate the triangle trade. As did pumpkin syrup. And I agee with you that maple syrup makes better tasting baked beans.

One little remembered fact is that rum was the second product involved in the triangle. The original New England triangle product was salt cod.

I think some of those other bean varieties were cooked fresh (boiled) and then eaten or canned, rather than dried. They're traditionally called "shell beans" here.

I'm sure you're right that many of them were used as fresh or shelly beans. Canning dates only from the early 19th century, so would not have been used before then. No doubt there were others preferred for the New England equivilent of leather britches. However, the ones I listed by name are dry beans.

Any common bean can serve in all three of the more popular forms. It's just that some work better one way rather than the others. And there's often confusion over which was, historically, the more popular. For instance, Ben Watson lists Ruth Bible (a Kentucky family heirloom dating to the mid-19th century) as a dry pole bean. But every other reference I can find lists it as a snap bean; which is how almost everyone who grows them today uses them.

I've always wondered about the name Vermont Cranberry, because it has no resemblence in either shape or color to the true Cranberry bean.

Yellow Eye was more popular outside of Mass., particularly in Maine, where it's the favorite. A great bean that, until fairly recently, was virtually unknown outside of New England.

There are several versions of Soldier beans, so, at least by name, it's more recognizable to people outside the region. The New England heirloom has a brownish red figure. But there's also a black variety, and a purple one.

One part of this conversation that's important to remember is that things change over time. We tend to talk about "the old days" and "colonial times." But the fact is, what they did in the mid-1600s and what they did in the mid-1800s might be very different.

A good case in point are Great Northern beans. Very popular in New England (as elsewhere) they are simultaneously a very old and relatively new variety. Originating with the Mandans (and often thought of, erroneously, as a Minnasota heirloom), they were not entered into general trade until 1907. So, as far as New England is concerned, they only date to the 20th century.

A real problem, when dealing with historic foodways, is that popular historians (and some scholars who should know better) tend to use "early American," and "Colonial," as synonyms for "New England." Obviously, such is not the case, and there were vast differences in foodstuffs and cooking techniques between New England and other regions of early America. But that takes us off in a different direction.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #22 of 29

You wrote: I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I do have to wonder on what information, authority or evidence you make the claims about maple syrup and pumpkin syrup -- especially as they relate to sweetening beans.

post #23 of 29

I can't definitively answer that question, but I did find some interesting historical tidbits in the introduction to Maple Syrup Cookbook, by Ken Haedrich.

Native Americans made syrup by pouring sap into clay or wooden dugout troughs and throwing in red hot rocks to boil the sap. They usually boiled the sap all the way down to sugar because sugar was easier to transport than syrup, and it was known as "Indian sugar. When "early settlers" arrived, they brought iron and copper pots which made the boiling process much easier. They also brought augers that could be used to tap the trees and used buckets for collection of the sap. [Sounds like the colonists really took over the maple business. I'm assuming here that "early settlers" implies 1600's.]

A section on alternative sweeteners mentions that molasses began arriving from the West Indies soon after (no dates given) and honeybees were actually imported from Italy in 1630. I do know that imported molasses, along with tea and stamps, were taxed by the British and therefore resented by N.E. colonists. The book goes on to say that maple products were still preferred in the interior because of the costs associated with transporting molasses from the seacoast ports. By 1803, molasses was in disfavor because its purchase directly supported slavery. As recently as 100 years ago, maple was the #1 sweetener in the northeast.

So maybe a wealthy Bostonian had molasses in his beans, and a farmer in "The Grants" had maple syrup????
post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 
Can anyone tell me how to make pumpkin syrup? If it's easier than maple syrup I might try it.
post #25 of 29
Thread Starter 
I will :^) The beans were tomato-free until almost fully cooked.
post #26 of 29
If "Boston Baked Beans" are baked somewhere other than "Boston", are they really "Boston Baked Beans"? ;)
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #27 of 29
Yeti...thanks for the obvious solution to the dessert issue. Maybe a selection of petits fours to include a bite size cheesecake. How about a Boston Cream Pie?
post #28 of 29
If you want to stay "on theme" with dessert, how about steamed brown bread (with raisins) topped with a good vanilla ice cream and drizzled with some reduced maple syrup?

Oh, and a little rum over it all. :peace:

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #29 of 29
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet: one reason for the sugar (in whatever form--molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar) in baked beans is that it retards bean softening. That is, it allows the beans to be cooked for all that long time without disintegrating into moosh. It retards the cooking.

The various kinds of sweeteners in recipes probably go back to what was most abundant and cheapest. Maple syrup could be gotten almost for free (other than the investment of time and fuel to boil it down); molasses was part of the triangular trade for raw sugar and rum. So all of them are correct, and all are "traditional" and "authentic."
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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