Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boston Baked Beans (my way)

My grandmother, while not from Boston, makes incredible baked beans. Every Christmas Eve, she hosts a buffet dinner and alongside the honey ham, parker house rolls, petit fours, Jelly Cake, potato salad and deviled eggs are her baked beans set on an old cast iron trivet in the antique clay pot she's been making them in since the 40's. Her beans are soft, a little sweet with an almost syrupy sauce. They go down easy.
Imagine my surprise last week when I found out part of her secret is using cans of already-baked beans in her baked beans!! That plus some molasses and Karo syrup. So, I guess she's the precursor to Sandra Lee's Semi-homemade.

As much as I love my grandmother's baked beans, I had to figure out how to make some beans without using canned beans. Two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned my first attempt in my Red Wine Spaghetti post. It was beyond disastrous. I used pinto beans and put in enough molasses to kill even more people than the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 did (No, I'm not kidding. There really was a molasses disaster!). Baby girl started crying the next day when her unsuspecting nanny put a  bowl in front of her. I had failed miserably.

But then, after chatting with my grandmother, I had a better idea of how to go about it. I used less molasses, a dab of Karo syrup, dried mustard and a can of diced tomatoes. While the accessories aren't local, the beans are, hailing from Cayuga Pure Organics up in Ithaca, New York. I switched to navy beans which are closer to the small white beans old Boston Baked Bean recipes call for. I cooked them for about 6 hours and they were really tasty. Another bonus? They don't make baby girl cry!

Boston Baked Beans... my way
(These are great as a side in the summer for cold dishes like ham or for, ahem, Esther's Fried Chicken. Since Sunday, I've been eating them every night with a salad and a buttered roll. Make sure to use that roll wisely and sop up the sauce.)

What You'll Need:
1 pound dried Navy Beans (soaked overnight in plenty of water)
1 large Onion chopped
7 oz bacon cut into bite sized chunks (if you can find a big piece of bacon, I find that tastes even better than pre-sliced)
1/2 cup Molasses
1 tablespoon plus 2 tsp Karo Syrup
1-2 tbsp dried Mustard (like Coleman's)
1 32 oz can of diced tomatoes
6 cups Water
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Molasses (for later)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place a stockpot or dutch oven over a medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper toweled plate. Pour off all but about a teaspoon of bacon fat. Add the onions and cook until softened.

In a small bowl, mix the molasses with the mustard powder and Karo syrup and set aside.

Once the onions are softened, return the bacon to the pot and add the beans, tomatoes, molasses mixture, water and salt. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover and pop into the oven.

After 4 hours, add the extra tablespoon of molasses and stir. Cover and put back in the oven. After another hour, uncover the beans and cook until the liquid is thick and the beans are soft. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Approximate Cost:
Groceries: $9
Cost per Meal: Expect a million gagillion servings. Seriously, it's a bottomless pit.

Bookmark and Share


  1. My sister in law doea a similar recipe but uses lima beans. Very good!

  2. Again, your recipe sounds so good! I've learned with your other recipes that I can substitute the animal protein (bacon, in this case) for something else or omit it. I'm guessing that rule applies here.

  3. I already bookmarked this fabulous recipe. Thank you for the process photos.

  4. Ed, I love the idea of using lima beans. WIll have to keep that in mind for future recipes.

    Meredith, yes! substitute other ingredients for the protein and if you hit on anything you think is incredible, please let me know and I'll recommend to everyone.

    Memoria! Let me know if you try this out. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  5. Thanks for this recipe, which I will try this weekend. I love baked beans and used to make them for my kids, in France, where the dish was really a novelty. (I put dried mustard in mine, too.)

  6. One of these days you might want to give it a try with honey instead of the not-so-good-for-you Karo Corn Syrup. I find honey substitutes 1:1 on most things.

  7. Just had to check this out, since I use variations on your grandmother's recipe with canned beans, just like my mother did. She called them "doctored up" by the way.
    And when you are eating the leftovers--try a baked bean sandwich. Depression food.
    One more thing: Mother always sliced Boston Brown Bread (canned) to go along with the Baked Beans and it's difficult to find now. I have a recipe but am too lazy to make it.

  8. Thanks for this recipe. I tried to make baked beans once and it was a disaster. I'm definitely going to make your recipe - once I can find some organic navy beans.

  9. These look really delicious! I have molasses and had been wanting to try something with it.....all I could think of until now was gingerbread (which is good too, but still). I see you also have a recipe for Molasses cookies - must check it out!
    Boston Brown Bread sounds so good too - would be perfect with baked beans!

  10. Yum. These sound wonderful and delicious. Will have to give them a try!

  11. I love how you start with dried beans in this recipe. I've been trying to do that more lately. I'm from Boston and I love Boston baked beans (though they tend to be too sweet for me). Like Christine, I love that these have molasses in them!

  12. I love recipes inspired by a grandmother's cooking. There's just nothing like it. Thanks for sharing your take on your grandmother's Boston baked beans.

  13. Wow! What great comments!!

    Frugal Kiwi, honey is a great idea. I don't usually use Karo syrup, but I must admit to loving it deeply in pecan pies. I wonder what they used before karo? Will have to investigate.

    Vera - I love the idea of brown bread. I don't think I've ever had it, at least not Boston Brown Bread.

    Jennifer - This version, while there's a hint of molasses, isn't too sweet. I hope you'll try it and tell me how it goes.

  14. I was just thinking that these would go perfect with the fried chicken recipe I just read about. Then low and behold, you said they would go perfect with that!

  15. i've been eating canned baked beans for lunch with toast - it's a kiwi favourite. i'd feel even better if the baked beans were made from scratch. cannot wait to try this!

  16. Your grandmother really knows how to assemble a great-sounding Christmas Eve meal. And these beans look wonderful. Many thanks for sharing.

  17. These look yummy to me, but I'm the only one in my family who will come near baked beans!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin