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Thursday
Mar222012

Mom's Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans

Mom's Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans

My mom was famous for her Boston Baked Beans. They were dark and rich, sweet and a little tangy--with molasses and spicy mustard for a little bite. I’d get so happy when I saw she’d picked up the ingredients to make them! There is nothing like sitting down to a big breakfast (or dinner!) of steak, eggs and baked beans. Steak? Yes. I’m not sure if that’s just a New England thing. I was talking to a friend in Texas about it once, and she thought we were crazy! It’s not an everyday thing, mind you--just occasionally. If you haven’t had it, you should at least once. If you’ve never attended a traditional New England Ham and Bean Supper, again--you should--at least once. You can find one in any given town on any given Saturday evening in any given church.

There was nothing more disappointing, though, than going to a family get together where someone else made the beans. It meant that they’d opened a few large cans of baked beans and doctored them up. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But I’d been spoiled. Spoiled to the point where I could go into any breakfast joint and judge them solely on their beans. What a brat I was!

My mom passed away six years ago, and I sadly didn’t know how to make her beans. I knew a few key things, but never really paid enough attention to the process. All this time, I’ve been trying to decipher the code and find the right combination of ingredients. The correct process--the right cooking time. I can’t tell you how many batches of beans went untouched. Too many were too salty, too runny, too overcooked, just too wrong. I’ve been faithfully using her cast iron Dutch oven, too. It’s about the only action that pot has seen in the last six years. She always used a slow cooker, but I don’t have one. And the cast iron pot makes me feel like a pioneer, slaving over a hot bed of coals for her family. Do. Not. Laugh!

I’m thrilled to say that I think I’ve gotten as close as I’m ever going to get with this recipe. I based it on a recipe I found at Saveur. It seemed fairly close to what my mom did, aside from a few key things. I took those key things and applied them here--and jackpot! Or rather, bean pot! See what I did there?

There's the famous cast iron pot.

Mom's Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans

Serves about 6-8
Adapted from Saveur
Total cooking time: approx. 10-10/12 hours

Be aware that the beans need 90 minutes of soaking time before you can proceed with the recipe. I always seem to forget that and get so mad at myself!

1 lb. dried navy beans, picked over for pebbles and rinsed
1 medium yellow onion, diced fairly small
1-2 pinches ground cloves
8 oz meaty uncooked bacon, diced (I use an uncured applewood smoked)
1/4 cup plus about 2 tbsp real maple syrup
3/4 cup molasses (NOT Blackstrap, just regular) 
Generous 1/2 cup spicy brown mustard (I use Kosciusko Spicy Brown, half of a 9 oz jar)
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp cider vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring the beans and 10 cups of water to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, pop the lid on, and let them sit for 90 minutes. Drain the beans and discard the liquid. 

Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a 4 quart Dutch oven, add the beans, onions, cloves, bacon, maple syrup, molasses, mustard and water. Stir to combine. Put the lid on the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 3 hours. After the 3 hours, stir in the ketchup and vinegar. Put the lid back on and cook 5-6 more hours.

When the beans are dark brown and tender, and the glaze is nice and thick, they're done. I find I don't need to add any salt or pepper after cooking, but I'll leave that up to you. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

  • My mom would start these late in the afternoon and let them cook all night long and late into the next morning. Her beans were seriously DARK. If you want to try that and let them go longer, I’d start stirring them after the 8th or 9th hour, and maybe turn the heat down to 200 degrees.
  • Serve these, of course, with eggs for breakfast. They’ll be perfect at your next cookout alongside ribs, pulled pork, burgers, dogs--whatever.
  • The mustard she used was always Kosciusko Spicy Brown Mustard, so that’s what I use. Use any one that’s convenient for you. And yes, add half of the 9 oz. jar! Trust me on this. It won’t taste like mustard at the end, I promise. That was one of her key things. “Use almost the whole jar of mustard.” I think that was for a doubled recipe, so I used about half.
  • Her other key thing? Don’t put on onion in then take it out at the end--that’s silly. Dice an onion nice and small, and let it all cook down in there and stay in there. It all adds to the finished product.
  • She used to use meaty salt pork, but for whatever reason, I can’t find any meaty salt pork. I use Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends and Pieces. It’s the meatiest bacon I’ve ever bought, and a total steal at $2.99! I probably shouldn’t be telling all of you about it, because you’ll all go buy it and leave none for me.

Mom's Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans



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Reader Comments (16)

Clove!! I can imagine how hard you've tried to recreate your mom's recipe--and I bet you maybe welled up a little when you tasted this. I would have. Yum, Elle. :)

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenni

Bean (jack) pot, indeed!!! I've got family driving from Arkansas to visit us for the next week and THESE are on the menu to go with BBQ pork...and hot dogs...and deviled eggs...cookout!!! And YES, total score because I've been wanting to buy some of that bacon and now I have a use for it. (I know that sounds crazy, how can one NOT have a use for bacon unless you're vegetarian, but I need recipes) So awesome you were able to recreate that memory of your mom and her beans. :)

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterApril was in CT now CA

Nice! I've been looking for a recipe for these, my dad lost the one he always used when I was a kid. The canned stuff is adequate, but it doesn't compare to homemade.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob

The same thing happens to me when someone makes something that normally my dad rocks my world with his recipe, and I am always sad when it's not the same.

I have never in my life thought of baked beans for breakfast, but I totally want to make these for aside dish at dinner!

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I'm willing to bet your mom would be very, very proud. I'm a huge fan of both the canned and homemade and have these bookmarked for making very soon. Another winner!

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I love baked beans, but nobody else in the house seems to :( I think I'll give these a whirl tho. They sound nice and comfy for our recent cold wave :) Congrats on being able to recreate your Mom's recipe!

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDana B

Wow! These beans look amazing and seriously good! I certainly don't think one needs to be from New England to love these babies, I know that I do! And I also think it is sad that more of us just didn't pay attention to our parents when they cooked or baked, so I am thrilled you found this recipe. I would so love a bowl of these beans - with a hot dog!

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Oh Elle - these look fabulous - very like the Nourishing Traditions cookbook reipe, which I ADORE... excpet the addition of molasses and BACON... which sounds awesome. I also love using regular tinned tomatoes (with plenty of salt to bring out the sweetness!!) and - sounds weird but is wonderful - soy sauce. SO recommended! Also serving with ham and saurkraut. HAve a great weekend!

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEm (Wine and Butter)

this makes me want to call my mom this instant and write down all her recipes that i love! delicious batch of one of my favorite side dishes. :)

March 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergrace

That's so lovely that you were able to finally work out your mother's recipe. Looks delicious, too. And now I so want to have a steak for breakfast instead of toast!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhungryandfrozen

I love baked beans! I have a very cherished recipe from my grandmother, bit I think I will try these next time I made a batch.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenn @ Leftover Queen

Glad you were able to recreate your Mom's recipe. I was lucky and was able to keep my mother's little black book - it really was a little black notebook - that she had written down all her recipes in and kept by the stove. She had a recipe for baked beans and she always said to use Great Northern beans and nothing else. Of course, being from Canada, we could only get them in the States. So every once in a while one of us goes shopping there and then we have to explain to customs why we are bringing back 15 packages of beans. You should see their faces! I always think of my Mom and Dad when we have one of her recipes.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Douglas

There has never been any tomatoes of any kind in real NewEngland baked beans. Southerners use BBQ sauce and ketchup in beans. My family has been in New England since the early 1700s and have served beans almost every Saturday since. The best New England baked beans can be made by following the simple recipe on a 2 lb. bag of State of Maine brand dried beans. I add a little basil(1 tsp.) like my grandmother used to do. You follow the process on the bag and you won't be disapointed with the authentic New England baked beans.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterR.Pierce

Hello R. Pierce. Thanks for your input. It's great that your family goes so far back in New England history!

I have to say, though, I think "best" when it comes to family recipes is all relative. What's best for me may not be best for you. For instance, I'd never think of adding basil to baked beans, ever. But if it works for you, great!

And for the record, I wasn't looking for the recipe on the bag of beans. I was looking for my mom's baked bean recipe. I miss her every single day, and want to keep her traditions and recipes going strong in my family, for my kids and someday, their kids.

I'm sure that with your family history going so far back, that someone along the line had to have added or taken something away from a recipe to make it to their taste--and that's where family traditions are born! I'm sure you have recipes in the family that make holidays special. Aunt Mary's bread stuffing, Uncle Bob's cheeseburgers, maybe Mom's sugar cookies. These make up a family.

If we all just made recipes from "the back of the bag," and didn't make them to our taste, it would be a very boring world. So here's to family recipes and traditions, yes? Happy New Year!

December 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterElle

I trained in an old New England kitchen (almost like Dowton Abbey) and your recipe is similar to the one we used. We would start the beans (great northern beans) the day before by simmering the beans on the stove with a large whole onion , salt pork and bay leaves for about an hour or two. The beans would be left to cool and then put in the fridge overnight to soak. First thing in the morning the beans were put into a deep oven pan along with the liquid ,the onion, the salt pork, mustard powder, onion pdr, catsup, molasses and sometimes maple syrup and/or a dash of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Come to think of it I think we used to spike the onion with a few whole cloves prior to cooking. We would bake them for 6-7 hours (forget the temp!) and serve them with franks, carrot coins and OF COURSE brown bread! I`m sorry to hear of your mother`s passing Elle, I`m sure she would be very proud of you!

September 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFirbolg

Thank you so much Firbolg! The recipes are very similar, aren't they? You know what? I think I even my mom stuffing an onion with cloves when I was little--I winder if I'm imagining that?

I think the ginger and cinnamon would be very interesting in these, too. I may try that next time. Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to leave such a great comment. Truly appreciated!

September 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterElle

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