Baked beans are generally loved in all parts of the country (except maybe California and Florida where they are busy having fun sipping Mojitos and eating light to fit into year-round bikinis! – I’m not jealous…much.) Here in New England Boston baked beans are a serious tradition.
Once football weather starts and there is a nip in the air; beans begin to make an appearance. They are cooked in traditional bean pots, in dutch ovens and like me in slow cookers. (aka crock-pots) The original Boston baked beans dinner would be started on Friday night or Saturday morning and cook all day in the stone-lined family “beanhole” so they could be served Saturday night after the Puritan Sabbath started. They were the original plan-ahead cooks. They could also be served on Sunday morning as a quick breakfast or after church as a supper.
Following in the footsteps on my ancestors – I rinsed, picked and soaked the beans overnight Friday night. Saturday morning I rinsed and boiled the beans in fresh water for about an hour. Skins on the beans should just be bursting. Toss them into the crock pot with some traditional basics – chopped onion, dark molasses, salt and pepper, a healthy dose of yellow mustard.
Here is where I get creative and throw in a few things from the “cabinet” and fridge.
From the fridge: I had these veggies in the crisper just asking to be used before they got too wrinkly! Red pepper, green pepper and onion. I don’t show it here but I had 1/2 of a bottle of my favorite sweet and spicy BBQ sauce just begging to be used. Why not? It can only stay half-used in the fridge for so long. Also not shown: the yellow mustard – French’s of course.
From the cabinet: Salt/pepper, one small can of tomato paste, (some folks use ketchup for the “tomato-y” flavor of the beans) Cumin because it is my favorite and adds a nice smokey flavor to go along with that BBQ sauce. The molasses of course for that sweet caramel-like flavor that puts the “Boston” in the “Boston baked beans.” (Google the “Boston molasses flood” for some interesting history.) And my newest ingredient Epazote. You can read about that herb here and maybe figure out why I used it.
True Boston baked beans would have some salt pork or bacon or something yummy like that in them. Shockingly I didn’t have any pork type item on hand. So I went without and 8 hours later on Saturday night – they were delicious. And of course healthier without all that salt and fat that Pork brings.
And vegetarian! (Don’t tell my husband!)