I get these bizarre obsessions once in a while and the making of the dish being obsessed over suddenly takes priority over everything else in my to-cook list. Baked beans suddenly became this latest dish, due in part to my having a large bottle of maple syrup from Toronto. The recipe below isn’t for the true Boston baked beans (for that, substitute the maple syrup for molasses and even then that might bring up arguments) but instead is more like a Québécois feves au lard and is just as delicious.
I’d rarely cooked beans from dry, usually using canned ones when cooking. However, these beans were tender in a much shorter amount of time than I expected – only about 2-3 hours on the stove. I’ve always loved baked beans in this style and they’re one thing (amongst many) from North America that I do miss. While all the cans of baked beans in the UK are full of tomatoes and sugar, there are lots of variants available over the pond – in tomato sauce, with pork, with cocktail hot dogs, with molasses, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, in barbecue sauce. I do love them all but, for me, while I’m happy to mix and match the sweeteners, melt-in-your-mouth, slow cooked bacon is a must. The beans from this recipe were sweet but not too sweet and wonderfully porky.
But it wasn’t just the baked beans I wanted; I had to have the entire bean supper. Baked beans are very traditional in New England and baked bean suppers are often held as fundraisers for churches and other public services; a great description of both can be found here at the Maine Farmhouse Journal – they are feasts! Along with the baked beans themselves, hot dogs, bread, salads and desserts are served. The traditional bread to have alongside is a unique steamed brown bread but I opted instead to serve a Bostonian baked bun, the Parker House roll (recipe in my next post). It was a real stick-to-your-ribs meal, perfect for a cold night or just big appetites!
The leftovers keep very well too. When cooked together with sliced frankfurters/hot dogs, you end up with beanies and weenies (aka franks and beans) – I love its name.
Maple Baked Beans
serves 6-8, depending on appetites.
500g dried beans (I used flageolet but haricot, cannellini or kidney beans would also work)
a 400g chunk of salt pork or bacon (I used a Polish boczek), cut into smaller pieces
60 ml maple syrup
1.5 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsps dark rum (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dried mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
The night before, dump your beans into a large pot/casserole, cover with lots of cold water and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the water and add the onion, bacon, cloves, mustard, maple syrup, sugar, Worcester sauce and rum, if using. Add water to cover and set the whole thing over medium-high heat. When it starts boiling, turn the heat to low and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender.
Preheat your oven to 160 Celsius. After the 2-3 hours on the stove (until the beans are tender), season with salt and pepper and then pop it into the oven without a lid on. A crust should have formed after an hour and it’ll be ready to serve. To cook it the entire time in the oven, you’ll want to cover it and place it in there for about 5 hours prior to removing the lid. You’ll also want to check periodically to make sure it isn’t drying out.