This is a very old and traditional recipe from near where I grew up. Unlike most of my recipes that you will see here, I include amounts for the ingredients in order to achieve the specific flavor for this dish. I don’t call this “traditional” Boston baked beans because I have added a few extra ingredients and changed the way they are cooked slightly from the original. Dried beans are an important part of a healthy whole food diet and this is a tasty way to prepare them.
This is a very slow recipe that requires planning ahead. The beans, whatever kind you decide to use, must be soaked overnight and the cooking time is a minimum of 6-8 hours. I will also make this recipe using great northern beans, cannelloni beans, pinto beans and small red kidney beans. The beans are traditionally eaten hot but are also quite good cold. The traditional sweeteners are molasses and brown sugar but I prefer molasses and raw, unfiltered honey. The molasses is the reason for the long cooking time as sugar and calcium both harden beans and extend the cooking time, but also help the beans keep their shape instead of becoming mush.
The beans should be drained and rinsed after soaking. Place back in a pot, add enough water to cover by an inch and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, drain again and place the beans in a glazed ceramic bean pot or other covered heavy roasting pan(I usually use a Corning oven-proof roaster).
*1# beans of choice(small white beans for traditional recipe)
*1/2 cup molasses or blackstrap
*1/2 cup raw honey(traditional recipe uses brown sugar)
*1 medium yellow onion, 1/2″ diced
*1/2# nitrate-free slat pork or bacon(I use bacon because “clean” slat pork is nearly impossible to find commercially) cut into 3/4″ pieces
*1 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
*1 1/2 tsp. ground clove
*1 tsp. ground nutmeg(not in traditional recipe)
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon(not in traditional recipe)
*2/3 cup apple cider vinegar, preferably organic
*water as needed to keep beans moist during baking
*sea salt to taste at the end of cooking
Place all ingredients in a heavy glazed ceramic pot with a fitted lid, mix well, add enough water to just cover the beans and mix again. Place in a 325 degree oven and let bake for one hour. Stir, add water if needed to keep beans moist and check every 30-45 minutes. When done, the beans will be tender but still fully formed and not mushy. Add more water if needed and bake another 30-45 minutes uncovered.
This dish is great hot and fresh from the oven with a fish entree, corn bread and corn on the cob or with a traditional pot roast. It is also very good cold as part of a picnic with potato or pasta salad, cold ham or sandwiches and sweet pickles. Boston baked beans freeze well in single servings for future use whenever a healthy side dish is needed. If frozen in ziplock bags, they can be re-heated by simply dropping into a post of boiling water.