Friday, January 25, 2008

Baked Beans

Makes 4 1/2 quarts

I have two bean pots, an older one (photo, left) and a more recent “reproduction”. The chip on the older one was there when I inherited it, but I assume it was not caused by accident. It was the custom to deliberately chip a bean pot cover so a limited amount of steam could escape as the beans cooked. If you go with the chipped top method, cook the beans without aluminum foil under the cover and omit removing the cover for the last hour. This will require more frequent checking for liquid as the beans cook.

I make baked beans “from scratch” (see recipe below) when I have the have the time and inclination. Alternatively, I buy baked beans in the can and add maple syrup (about 1 T per can), dried mustard (about ½ t per can) and peeled onion cut in small chunks (about 1/3 onion per can). Baked beans, precooked ribs and Coleslaw make an easy company dinner.  This is also a great boat dinner because the beans come canned and the ribs (in cry-o-vac) and cabbage keep for a long time in the ice box

This recipe is adapted with several modifications from a recipe in American Cooking: New England by Jonathan Norton Leonard, a gift from Grandmother Up Down.

I make 1 1/2 times the original recipe (3 pounds of beans) this fills my large and small bean pots (about 4 ½ quarts of baked beans total). Given the baking time, I would at least use 3 pounds of beans, if not more.

In a heavy 4-5 quart casserole, bring 3 quarts of water to boil. Drop in

6 c (3 pounds) dried pea or Great Northern beans [I use navy beans]

and boil for about 2 minutes. The water should cover the beans by 2 inches; add more water if necessary. Turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour [I soak overnight].

1 large onion peeled [I chop in quarters]
1 t salt [I omit]

Bring to boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for about an hour, or until beans are tender. Check them from time to time and add more boiling water if needed. Drain the beans through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard the onion and reserve the cooking liquid. There should be about 3 quarts; add water if necessary to make the required amount.

Add to the beans:

1 T plus 1 ½ t dried ground mustard
1 ½ t ground ginger

1 T plus 1 ½ t salt [This recipe is from Pilgrim/Grandmother Up-Down times! I omit the salt completely; use 1 t if you must]

¾ t ground white pepper [black works fine too]

2 c maple syrup [darker is better; grade B is perfect if you have any *; you can also use a mix of maple syrup and dark molasses; e.g.  1 c maple syrup and 1 c dark molasses though I prefer the maple syrup option].

Mix well. Cover the bottom of 2 bean pots with

2 medium sized onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced.

Ladle the bean mixture into the pots. Add:

9 oz lean salt pork, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices [this is almost pure fat; I used to use a token amount in each pot, now I omit]

Push the salt pork, rind side down , slightly below the surface of the beans. Then pour in enough of the reserved cooking liquid to cover the beans by ½ inch. (Reserve the remaining liquid). Cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil and set the lid in place.

Bake the beans a preheated 300 degree F oven for 6 hours, adding more of the reserved cooking liquid to the pot if necessary. Then remove the lid, taste for seasoning and bake the beans uncovered for 1 hour longer.

Serve the beans directly from the pot. [Before serving, I remove any salt pork that has been added.] Leftover beans may be refrigerated in the same pot; tightly covered with foil or plastic wrap they can be safely kept for a week [freeze in portions if you plan to keep longer]. The beans will absorb the cooking liquid as they stand; add a little water before reheating them in the oven.

* December 2015:  I had not made these beans in sometime and did not have photos, so added photos at this time.  Because I did not have any dark or, even better, grade B syrup, I used medium amber. The result were beans that were not as dark as I am used to or quite as maple infused.  The darker syrup is best for these beans


Serves 16

A quick alternative. This recipe is from Betsy, a family friend from Aspen.


8 slices of bacon until crisp.

Reserve the drippings [I throw out] Drain [I blot with paper towels to remove all excess grease] and crumble.

Sauté in drippings [I sauté in 1 T olive oil] until transparent

4 meduim onions, chopped

Combine with sautéed onion and crumbled bacon:

1 can (1#) green beans, drained or pinto beans, with liquid* [I use pinto]
1 can (1#) white lima beans, drained
1 can (1#) pork and beans (baked beans) with liquid* [I use vegetarian baked beans]
1 can (1#) red kidney beans with liquid*

Combine [Betsy does it separately, I add directly to beans]

¾ c dark brown sugar [I use ¾ c maple syrup]
½ c vinegar
½ t dry mustard
Pepper to taste

Add to bean mixture. Stir well. Bake in uncovered 3-quart casserole in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour. Freezes well before or after cooking.


January 2015: When I was helping Alex make Kale Soup this past fall, Alex told me to rinse the beans very well; this will minimize any gas generated by the beans she added. Interesting news to me. When I returned home I checked out On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

"Many legumes, especially soy, navy and lima beans [chickpeas, black beans and lentils contain fewer indigestibles], cause a sudden increase in [intestinal] bacteria activity and gas production a few hours after they are consumed.  This is because they contain large amounts of carbohydrates that human digestive enzymes can't convert into absorbable sugars."

As "cures" he suggests soaking and longer cooking.

"A commonly used method for reducing the gassiness of beans is to boil them briefly in excess water, let them stand for an hour, then discard the soaking water and start the cooking with fresh water. This does leach out most of the water-soluable oligosacchaarides [one kind of troublesome carbohydrate] - but it also leaches out significant quantities of water-soluable vitamins, minerals, simple sugars, and seed-coat pigments: that is, nutrients, flavor, color, and antioxidants.  That's a high price to pay. An alternative is simple prolonged cooking, which helps by eventually breaking down much of the oligosaccharides and cell-wall cements [which generate just as much carbon dioxide and hydrogen as the oligosaccharides - and beans generally contain about twice as much of these carbohydrates as they do oligosaccharides] into digestible simple sugars."**

While I could find no reference to canned beans in this text, in Keys to Good Cooking McGee advises, "Precooked canned and 'instant' legumes are convenient but rarely taste as good as when freshly prepared. Canned legumes have been heated to high temperatures, and instant versions loose aroma when they're freeze-dried. 

To get the best flavor in canned beans and peas, check lables and choose brands with the fewest added flavors and lowest sodium content.  Rinse them throughly, taste and if they're oversalted, soak them in warm water for 1 to 2 hours."***

**   On Food and Cooking, pages 486-487, 2004 edition
***   Keys to Good Cooking, pages 349-350, 2010 edition

Reviewed 8/30/2017

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