Last year I went to great lengths to make a reasonable reproduction of English beans with tomato sauce for Egg and Beans on Toast. While it was a fun challenge making a vegetarian bean pot I quickly fell back to making my usual baked beans. Which of course is good old fashioned Boston Baked Beans. I like mine old school, not too sweet, not too much bacon. I know there seems to be a drive to make everything sweeter, fattier, and saltier, but I think that comes at a cost of actual flavor. If it is too sweet you lose that savory tang of the dish. Besides it is traditionally a Puritanical dish after all, so perhaps it shouldn’t be too extravagant.
Puritan and Colonial, but still so good. My recipe is a slightly modified version of Betty Fussell’s, which of course is dug up from the pages of history no doubt. Generally Baked Beans would normally be served with brown bread (steamed in a can if really traditional), but I grew up a little farther South and a little farther West than “Bean Town” so I like mine with corn bread.
- 1 lb (2 c.) dried navy beans, soaked and drained
- 8 oz. bacon (preferably slab, with rind on, but sliced is ok) cubed or chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/4 c. tomato paste
- 1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
- 1 T. dry mustard
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 t. each salt and black pepper
- pinch of cayenne
- 1-2 T. cider vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 250 F.
- In a 4 qt. Dutch oven over medium heat brown the bacon in a little bit of oil. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the tomato paste, brown a little. Then add the beans, molasses, mustard, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add 3 c. of water and bring to a boil. Put the lid on.
- Place the whole lot in the oven and bake for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and stir in the vinegar. Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven.
- Bake for a further 1 to 3 hours until the beans are tender and the liquid is reduced to a thick glaze.