Do baked beans have a season? I couldn't decide when it'd be appropriate to share this recipe with you guys.
On the one hand, I often associate baked beans with summer. I think it's because growing up we always ate them with hot dogs, and though I really don't eat hot dogs much anymore, when I do, it's in the summer. But even more than that, baked beans just seem like the kind of summer food you bring to a party or barbecue. They're such a good side with burgers, hot dogs, barbecue chicken, ribs...the list goes on and on!
And then just when I'm convinced they're obviously a summer food, I start thinking about how much I love baked beans in the cooler months. Baked beans = total comfort food for me and the comfort food cravings really ramp up when fall and winter arrive. And unlike in the summer, they're not usually a side dish. I can, and often have, made a meal out of just beans.
The other good thing about making baked beans in the cooler weather? Most recipes I've seen (this one included) will require your oven to be on for an extended period of time. We're talking at least 5 hours in this recipe! And while 99% of the time is hands-off, most people aren't jazzed about having a 300 degree oven heating their house up for half of the day in the middle of summer.
Ultimately, I figured I'd post this recipe here in late August, sort of straddling the line between summer and fall. For me, I guess there really is no bad time to make baked beans :)
Don't be scared off by the long baking time in this recipe - as I mentioned above, there is very little hands-on time here; I promise making baked beans at home is crazy simple! I've often resorted to buying them in cans at the store and while I do like those, these were infinitely better. The flavor is much more complex and intense even though the ingredient list is fairly short. In addition to the dried beans, you're only adding molasses, mustard, and cider vinegar. Oh, and pork! Both bacon and salt pork, and yes they're both necessary. The beans are slightly sweet and just a little tangy. The recipe makes a ton of beans, but leftovers reheat wonderfully so no worries!
Boston Baked Beans
barely adapted from Cook's Illustrated, January/February 2003
4 oz salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 oz bacon (about 2 slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon molasses, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 lb dried small white beans (I used navy beans), rinsed and picked over
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
9 cups water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 300 F, with a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Set a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the salt pork and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat has rendered and the pork is golden brown. Stir in the chopped onion, allowing it to cook in the fat that has been rendered, until softened and golden. Add 1/2 cup of the molasses, the mustard, beans, salt, and water. Stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Place the cover on the pot and transfer to the oven. Bake (covered) for about 4 hours, or until the beans are tender - you only need to remove the pot and stir once at the halfway point of the baking time (so 2 hours in). Once the beans are tender, remove the cover from the pot and continue baking for another 60-90 minutes, or until the cooking liquid has reduced and become syrupy.
Take the pot out of the oven and stir in the remaining tablespoon of molasses and the cider vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper as necessary. Serve!
The beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.