Week 32 - Boston Baked Beans
In week 32 I decided to make Boston baked beans from the 1963 cookbook "The New Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Restaurants", by Nancy Kennedy. This spiral bound cookbook features recipes from famous restaurants from around the country. Each section is broken up into regions of the country and the recipes are decorated with illustrations of the featured location, by different illustrators of the day. The cover of the book is illustrated by Charlie Harper, whose work I really enjoy. I wanted to start by making something from a restaurant I've been to before. Many of the restaurants featured no longer exist, so this proved to be quite difficult. I finally decided on the recipe for Boston Baked Beans, from Durgin Park, which is located at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, MA. I have been here a couple of times; due to its location it is pretty touristy, but the food is good, basic comfort food and always satisfying.
I had another reason for wanting to try this recipe. My grandmother was a great cook and in addition to her apple pie and potato salad, I fondly remember her baked beans. She always made these on the Fourth of July, baked in her brown bean pot. Talking with my mom recently, I learned that she made a pot of beans almost every week. Leftover beans were often spread on bread as an after-school snack. Her beans were sweet, savory and delicious, but I could never find her recipe. Based on the ingredients listed in the Durgin Park recipe, I figured this one would match hers fairly closely.
The process for this recipe was a two day affair. I first had to soak navy beans in water over night. Once that was done, I lined the bottom of a baking dish with salt pork and onion. I do not have a traditional bean pot, so used one of my vintage pyrex casserole dishes instead. After adding the soaked beans, I added the rest of the pork and then added a mixture of mustard, molasses, salt and pepper. All that was left was to pop it in the oven for a few hours, checking every 30 minutes to add more liquid, as needed.
When done I had a wonderful-smelling pot of rich, dark baked beans. The baked beans were delicious and very close to what my grandmother made. The molasses and mustard mixture had just the right amount of tangy sweetness and the sauce was thick and flavorful.
The only thing I would change for the next batch is to use less salt pork and possibly experiment with the ingredients in the sauce. The amount of salt pork I used made the beans a bit saltier than I would have liked. For the sauce, I'd like to try to replace the molasses with maple syrup or brown sugar and see how the flavor changes. The beans even froze and re-heated really well. Homemade baked beans are far superior to any you would get in a can and the process was so easy, that I'm not sure I'll buy canned beans going forward.
Cookbook: "The New Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Restaurants", published in 1963
Recipe: Boston Baked Beans
Difficulty: Easy, but does take two days from start to finish
Results: Very good, but was slightly too salty for me
Make Again: Absolutely! I may to experiment with replacing the molasses with maple syrup or brown sugar.