Boston Baked Beans
When it comes to summer picnics, I look forward to a handful of things: blackened hot dogs on the grill, sweet corn on the cob, watermelon and baked beans. I’ve always heard rumblings that beans get a bad rap, especially among kids, but I’ve always been a fan. Whether it was refried beans or black beans in a Mexican dish, kidney beans in chili, cannelini beans in minestrone, garbanzo beans ground into hummus or baked beans during the summer, I’ve always loved them all. My mom has a baked beans dish that she’s famous for. After getting my feet wet soaking and cooking beans from scratch, I wanted to nail down a great baked bean recipe myself. I’m thrilled to have finally done so, and what a keeper this recipe is!
Boston Baked Beans are a variety of baked beans that are typically sweetened with molasses (because it was readily available in the Boston area in the 1700′s) and flavored with salt pork or bacon (both are used in this recipe along with a touch of dark rum or bourbon – optional). Have you ever used salt pork? I had heard of it and used it before this recipe. My mom said that my grandma used it in a lot of recipes back in the day, which made me feel that this particular recipe was right on track!
4 cups dried navy or pea beans (about 2 pounds)
2 whole cloves
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound slab bacon or salt pork (rind removed), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups dark molasses (not blackstrap)
2 teaspoons ground mustard
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dark rum or bourbon (optional)
Place the beans in a large bowl with enough water to cover by 3 inches and soak overnight.
Heat the oven to 275°F and place a rack in the lower third.
Drain the beans, place in a large (6-quart) Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Press the cloves into the onion and add the onion and baking soda to the pot; stir to combine.
On the stovetop, bring the beans just to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, skim off the foam, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.
Place the pot in the oven and bake slowly until the beans are tender, 5 to 6 hours. Add a little water if necessary. Allow the top of the beans to crust slightly during the final 30 minutes of baking. Serve hot.