There is a definite difference between homemade baked beans and those out of a can. When you make them from scratch the beans maintain more of their texture and flavor, the notes of good-quality molasses can be detected and, if you're like me and like traditional-style Boston baked beans, you don't need to worry about someone putting tomato or tomato sauce in them and mucking things up.
That's right, I said it. No tomato product in the baked beans! This is America! We put molasses in, not tomatoes. (Okay, the tomato-style ones are just fine, they're just not Boston baked beans.)
Note that using full-flavored molasses and dark brown sugar will yield stronger, more deeply flavored baked beans. Also, feel free to play a bit with the amount of molasses and brown sugar you add; I prefer my baked beans on the not-too-sweet side, so if you like sweeter baked beans, you may want to increase the molasses and brown sugar by up to half again as much.
- 1 pound navy beans or Great Northern beans
- 1/4 pound salt pork or bacon (bacon lovers can double this, if they like)
- 1 onion
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon dry ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste
- Rinse the beans and pick them over, removing any truly shriveled specimens or bits of rock or grit. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover them with cool water. Let them soak overnight. Alternatively, you can use the Quick Soak Method.
- Preheat an oven to 250 degrees F or get out a slow-cooker and set it to high.
- Chop the salt pork or bacon and put half of it in the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy pot or the slow cooker. Drain the beans and put half of them on top of the bacon.
- Peel and chop the onion and put it on top of the beans. Add the remaining beans and top them with the remaining salt pork or bacon.
- In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine the molasses, brown sugar, and mustard with 3 cups boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and mustard and pour the mixture over the beans. Cover the pot or slow-cooker and cook the beans for 4 hours. Check on them, if the beans are tender to the bite, stir in the salt.
- Cover again and cook for another 2 hours, removing the lid after the first hour (you can leave the lid on if you prefer soupier beans). The beans should be tender and the flavors fully blended.
- You can serve the beans right away, but something even more magical happens to their flavor if you let them cool and reheat them the next day.
See more New England Dishes here.