Boston Style Baked Beans


This week I am continuing my quest to eradicate all processed food from the house with a simple-yet-hearty recipe for Boston-style baked beans.


I have been searching for recipes that are easy and healthy. I need to be able to make them in bulk and store them. I don’t want to sacrifice the meals and flavors that I love just because my standards for food have changed.

This recipe is very simple and can be made without a lot of supervision, meaning I can get it started and then go work in the garden, or do a load of laundry, or clean out the chicken coop. Multitasking is the only way things get done around here, and anything that I can accomplish while also doing something else immediately gets bonus points in my book.

This recipe also gets bonus points for being BETTER than its rival, the can of baked beans.

I will admit there are certain processed foods that for some reason or another (owing largely, I think, to having grown up eating them) just taste comforting. They taste “right”. All attempts to recreate those tastes, while potentially delicious, just never seem to live up to that standard. If anyone can give me a ranch dressing recipe that is better than bottled Hidden Valley, I will love you forever. No kidding.


I had thought that home-made baked beans were going to be like this for me too. Tasty, sure, but not quite what I’m craving to serve on toast with fried eggs and bacon. Because of this, I’ve been holding out. Until now.

My recent success with making my own refried beans gave me the confidence I needed to try this other bean-based pantry staple, and I have to say I will never again look at a tin of beans as though it has something I haven’t got.

Because I’ve got it.

And now you do too!


Boston-Style Baked Beans
(adapted from this recipe)

about 3 cups dry beans (I used pinto, because they’re what I had on hand)

  • 1/2 lb smoky bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup (homemade!)
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (not homemade, sadly – anyone have a recipe?)

Soak the beans in water overnight to begin softening them. If you are like me and don’t have that kind of glorious forethought (read: OMGIWANTBAKEDBEANSNOW), you can cook them on the stove straight from dry and add a bit of baking soda to the water part of the way through the cooking process to aid in the softening of the beans – works like a charm (and is fun fizzy cooking)! If you’ve soaked them (you planner, you!), finish the cooking in a large pan on the stovetop.

Basically, however you want to make ‘em soft, do that. They should be tender, but not to the point of falling apart. If they are a tiny bit al dente, that’s OK – they will cook more in the next step. Remove the beans from the cooking water, but don’t toss out the bean juice – you might still need it (I did, when I made it).

While the beans are cooking, heat the rest of the ingredients (ketchup, molasses, sugar, mustard powder, salt, pepper, Worcestershire) together in a pan on the stove until they are simmering, then remove the sauce from the stove.

In a large casserole dish (I used my cast iron dutch oven, which was PERFECT), layer about 1-2 inches of cooked beans, and sprinkle them with half of the onion and half of the chopped bacon. Cover this with the remaining beans, and repeat the onion and bacon. Drizzle the sauce over the beans/onions/bacon. Use the bean-cooking juice to bring the liquid level to just about even with the beans.

Bake this with the lid on for about 2 hours, or until the bacon is cooked through and the onions are tender and translucent. If the beans are swimming in too much liquid, remove the lid and cook UNcovered for another 20 minutes or so, until the sauce is the consistency you like (remember it will thicken slightly as it cools).

Serve these baked beans on toast as part of a perfect greasy hangover breakfast – I served them with a roasted tomato, fried eggs, and homemade 12 grain rolls. Delicious!!

They’re also a perfect snack on the go, or a great side dish for any kind of meat. Basically, eat them however you want. I’m not here to tell you HOW to eat them. I am, however, here to tell you to MAKE them. Right now. Go.

Trust me – try this recipe. It’s a keeper.

These baked beans can be frozen for up to 6 months in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or other appropriate airtight container. Just be sure to thaw them to room temperature before heating so they don’t turn to mush!

Comments

  1. Samantha says:

    Those beans look ridiculously good. With this crummy cold weather, I'll be baking them ASAP.

    I, too, have never found a Ranch as good as Hidden Valley.

  2. Here is my homemade "Hidden Valley Ranch" recipe. http://beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com/2010/12/homemade-ranch-dressing.html

  3. i'm so doing this. and i too want to eradicate the processed foods. difficult with 2 other people at home not completely on board with that one. would love to chat sometime about your progress. stop by the farmstead if you get a chance. i'll make you some chai and we can chat food :)

  4. These beans may be my favorite thing ever. It's true- they taste exactly the way I remember the canned ones tasting, only better. They are just right. THANK YOU!

  5. Wow, thanks, guys! Yeah, I actually made another batch before this one was even finished because we were SO not done having them around.

    And the weather cooperated for a few days giving me the perfect excuse to stay in and do some cast iron dutch oven cookin'.

    Sarah – I'll give it a shot, thanks!

    Heidi – I'd LOVE to see your farm and talk food with you (and would *never* say no to chai)! I keep meaning to set up time to head out there (because it's SO FAR, obviously), but time is, alas, not on my side. Hopefully soon!

    Alanna – I'm glad you like them. They are stupidly easy and really…fulfilling. There's just something about baked beans that always tastes so home-y. Thank you for brownies, BTW – what kind of booze was in them?

  6. Homey, totally. I can't wait to give them a try! You're welcome for the brownies – I used dark rum this time as I was low on whiskey and needed to save it for the impending, accidental snow camping : p. Sure wish I could have had warm baked beans in Yosemite, let me tell you.

    Oh, and there's a recipe for 'branch' dressing in The Herbal Kitchen cookbook, made with lots of herbs. Maybe not so Hidden Valley-ish (I was a fan as a kid, too – always on iceberg!) but I'll happily get it to you, if you like.

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