Friday, June 5, 2009

The joy of baking beans

This past Christmas I had the great good fortune to receive a set of antique bean pots from my husband's parents. Finally I'd have a chance to make my own Maine Baked Beans. Of course, to the south of us, this regional specialty is called Boston Baked Beans, but here in the Pine Tree State we like to call them Maine Baked Beans.

The first Saturday night after Christmas, I covered two cups of dried beans in a pot, submerged them in water and placed them against a warm wall. The next morning, I was up at 6 am to mix the sauce, add it to the beans and stash it in a low heat oven for eight hours of baking.

It's a ritual I've followed as many Sundays as possible since.

During the icy holiday season, I assumed I'd tire of baking beans once the warm weather rolled around. Turns out that's not the case. This past Sunday I once again fired up the oven and set my beans to baking.

As they bake, our apartment fills with the most tantalizing aroma. Even on the deepest winter day, the smell of baking beans is like a ray of sunshine in the house. But the sweet, comforting fragrance of caramelizing molasses is no less delightful when the real sun shines.

As the beans bake, I like to make bread dough and set it to rise. Then when the beans come out of the oven, I can crank the oven dial and bake the bread while the beans cool.

The credit for this baked bean recipe all goes to my mother-in-law, who included her traditional Maine recipe with the pots. The only tweak I added is an 1/8 tsp. of liquid smoke in place of the salt pork. Served with a dollop of stone-ground Raye's Mustard, these baked beans taste fabulous no matter the season.

Maine Baked Beans

2 cups dry, organic navy beans
3 Tbsp. Blackstrap molasses
3 Tbsp. organic whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mutard
1 tsp. Maine sea salt
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. liquid smoke
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups boiling water

Pick over the dry beans. Discard any rocks or broken pieces. Place remainder in a colander and rinse the beans with cold water. Place beans in a good oven-top covered cooking pot and cover them with water. Place the lid on the pot and allow the beans to soak overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 250, drain the beans into a colander and spoon them into an appropriate size bean pot. Mix all the seasonings together in a small bowl. Be careful not to add too much molasses, as it can cause beans to harden as they bake. Turn spices into the bean pot on top of soaked, drained beans.

Add enough boiling water to cover the beans. Mix together until seasonings are well dispersed. Bake for 8 hours. Check the beans occasionally to make sure they aren't drying out, but don't stir the beans. Begin to test if the beans are baked after 6 hours (baking time will vary depending on your stove). The cover can be removed during the last hour of baking.


Mary said...

Home-baked beans are the best! I envy your bean pots. I'll definitely try your recipe when cold, rainy weather rolls around again.

Bianca said...

Oh my, baking beans in a special bean pot sounds so lovely! I'll have to seek out an antique bean pot of my own to make my favorite boozy beer baked beans!

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Meg Wolff said...

Hi Avery,
This sounds great. Growing up we had baked beans (& hotdogs) many a Saturday night. I also have my own version that I made recently (with white local Maine grown beans from Lois') and I'm making it again tonight!

Meg Wolff said...

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betty said...

Wonderful,yummy site-thanks for the pictures and info! Betty