Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Boston Baked Beans-- Bake 'em Low and Slow!

I like to record food shows on my local PBS station-- especially now that I've grown bored with Food Network's programming, lately. Recently,  I watched an episode of "Martha Stewart Cooking School", where Martha shares her recipe for Boston Baked Beans.  I was so intrigued by the bean pot that she used, and at how simple it looked to make these beans.  Because of that show, I became obsessed with wanting a bean pot for myself!  I was able to find one, made in the USA, on Etsy for less than $30.00. (Beware, many of them are made in China!)

I've posted many recipes for beans, because they are one of my favorite legumes that is good anytime of year.  I try to keep a can of Bush's Baked Beans in our pantry.  They are a perfect side dish with hot dogs or burgers.   I love the taste of the sweetness from the brown sugar and molasses and the saltiness from the pork.

NOTE: It isn't mandatory to have a bean pot. My favorite method of cooking beans is in a Dutch oven, simmering them on a stove. My pressure cooker is another great way to make beans, in a fraction of the time.  I've never cooked beans in the oven, over a period of six hours! I've read that this technique produces beans with a lot of flavor. It was time to test this method.  ONE MORE NOTE: I do not recommend making these in a slower cooker, though. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never had luck making really good beans in a slow cooker.

 We begin with one sliced onion, as the bottom layer.  Martha uses canned plum tomatoes. She mentions (with a slight hint of disdain, "one could use ketchup".) However, I had some fresh Roma tomatoes, that needed to be used...or they wouldn't be quite so fresh any longer. I think Martha would approve.

Why not? So, they go in next.  For aromatics, we add some bay leaves and whole cloves.

In goes brown sugar, a little dry mustard, salt & pepper and-- wonderful sticky molasses.

Well, of course, we need beans!  They should be soaked the night before, of course. I could have sworn that I had navy beans. Nope. I had Great Northern White Beans.  A quick internet search gave me the confidence that these would work--though, navy beans are the most traditional.  Next time, k?

Wow, this pot is getting pretty full!

I had to, gently, smush down the ingredients to make room for the salt pork and 4 cups of water (the recipe said five, but there wasn't enough room left).  I put the lid on, and decided to place the pot on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 300F.  Six hours is what Martha recommended to allow the beans to bake.  She also said to keep an eye on the water, and add more if needed and that there is no need to stir. Got it!

It's a good thing I put the bean pot on a baking sheet, because the liquid oozed out from the top!  Eventually, the water began to become absorbed...and five hours later...

 ...the house was filled with the aroma of molasses and pork.  I was anxious to taste them!  I thought, to myself, that I wanted the beans to be in a thicker sauce. So, I removed the lid and put them back in the oven for another hour.

Now, that's what we're talkin' about! 

These were cooked perfectly, and I was happy with the thickness of the sauce-- not too watery, but not like wallpaper paste. Let's eat!

TASTING NOTES:  Being a Californian, I know these as "Pork and Beans". Since I did use an authentic Boston Bean Pot, I'll call them Boston Baked Beans. First, how did they taste?

The beans were tender, but not the least bit mushy.  Big plus.  The overall bean dish was crazy good-- specifically, I felt that the balance of molasses was spot on.  I could taste the cloves, and was pleasantly surprised at how much these added to the overall flavor. (Though, I think I'd cut them back about 25% as they almost dominated the flavor.) The brown sugar gave a delicious sweetness-- but noticeably less sweet than the supermarket canned brands (I shall not name).  My husband liked that these weren't overly sweet.  Myself? I would be tempted to kick up the brown sugar by an extra 1/4 cup. Then again, I admit that have a sweet tooth-- so adjust to you own personal liking. 

The little bits of salt pork were tender, and gave a nice balance of saltiness. The fresh tomatoes worked out well, but I would think ketchup would work, too.  I liked the color and texture of the tomatoes, so I'll stick to that ingredient.  Funny, but the onions literally disintegrated and melted into the beans! I couldn't see them at all.

I can see why people swear that baking beans, in a ceramic pot, is one of the best techniques.  The texture of the beans was absolutely perfect-- having baked for six hours, they weren't mushy nor falling apart.  


It was raining cats and dogs, when I made the beans. Oh, and what did I serve with the Boston Baked beans?  At first, I considered sausage. Then maybe chicken.  Then it hit me-- Pork Baby Ribs, of course!  I made these in my beloved pressure cooker-- 15 minutes of cooking, with a tasty homemade BBQ sauce, then broiled until glazed.  Who says it has to be summer to enjoy barbeque?  That recipe can be found here.

I can see myself making these beans year-round, and definitely when we do our summer barbeque entertaining.  This makes a LOT of beans, and is very cost-effective, too.  Of course, that doesn't include the cost of a bean pot-- which I think would be a great addiction to anyone's kitchen storage cabinet (mine is jammed full, already).  Otherwise, just use an oven-proof pot with a lid (or a Dutch oven).

As always, a printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

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Barbara Bakes said...

The beans look fantastic. Now I'm thinking I need a bean pot too.

Sarah@Homestyle Cooking Around the World said...

My aunt always made baked beans in a bean pot for our family gatherings throughout the years. Lately, I have been on the lookout for an older bean pot at Goodwill. This made me want to try this recipe ASAP- it looks wonderful and I love the different spices. Did you have a problem with biting on cloves? I loved the picture tutorial!

Debby Foodiewife said...

No problems with the cloves. Well, I spotted one, and removed it. Where the other eleven went, I do not know?!

Velva said...

Everyone should have a good cook them slow baked bean recipes-love, love this one. I like that you used a bean pot a very traditional approach to making beans. Love it.

I grew up eating beans and can totally appreciate a good bean dish.


Bill said...

Wow, Debby! These beans look amazing! I'm a make-it-from-scratch kind of guy and I love that you started from scratch! I'm having a dinner party in a couple of week and I"m making smoked pork butt. I might just have to try this recipe! Excellent post!

Joanne said...

Low and slow is definitely the way to go with baked beans! These look perfectly cooked!

Big Dude said...

I think beans and ribs are made for each other. I've tried baked beans from scratch and we didn't like them as well as our doctored versions BUT these sound and look so delicious and your crazy good description means they must be given another try.