|Boston Baked Beans
||[Jan. 11th, 2008|03:44 pm]
Whole Foods: the anti-Twinkie lifestyle
I write myself long e-mails when I'm doing internet research, and my favorite way to tackle a standard dish is to look at as many reputable examples as I can find, and learn some golden ratios, secret ingredients, tips, and such from studying them. Here's an e-mail I sent myself on Boston Baked Beans. The weather here is cold and wet now (we're in western Massachusetts), perfect weather for this dish. It's traditionally served with Boston brown bread, but I'm going to buck tradition and serve it with sweet cornbread and steamed greens.
The Bean Bible (http://www.beanbible.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=38&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0
) has many recipes for baked beans, but their "favorite," "most popular" recipe is a disappointment: it calls for canned pork n' beans! The recipe linked above is one of the recipes that calls for dry beans. Most recipes call for small white beans such as navy or pea beans, but occasionally I find a recipe that calls for some portion to be great northern or lima beans, and one that called for pintos.
After the beans, the basic ingredients are sweeteners with strong dark flavors like molasses, maple syrup, and honey; spicy mustard; onion; and fatty meat for flavor, either bacon or salt pork. (Of course, I plan to use duck bacon.) Other additions include tomatoes, garlic, coffee, bourbon, bell peppers, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, apples or apple butter. This recipe ( http://www.whats4eats.com/recipes/r_be_bostonbeans.html) makes a few suggestions for variations, and says that the author prefers beans w/o tomato because the maple flavor is more prominent.
Baking soda is sometimes added to soften the beans. This recipe (http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/beans-grains/00/rec0075.html) from an established Boston restaurant uses the soda in the pre-soak boiling of the beans. Another source ( http://www.centralbean.com/storeandsoak.html) says that soda may give the beans a "soapy" flavor, and since I'm going to cook it for half the day, I'm not worried the beans won't soften. A Google search found many sites that warn against using soda for the soapy flavor, darkening of beans, and reduction of bean flavor.
The above recipe (for Boston Baked beans, from Southern Food, heh) is one of the most basic recipes I've found, with only 8 ingredients. Like some other, more complicated recipes, it seems to make a fetish of layering ingredients or otherwise putting them into the pot in some special order. It shouldn't matter.
The best recipes I've seen call for cooking this very slowly (250-275 degree oven) for 5-10 hours, using presoaked beans. Some bake the beans, some cook them on the stovetop, and at least one ( http://www.knouse.com/index.cfm?do=displayrecipe&recipeid=101 which also uses apple butter) has you cook them on the stovetop til nearly tender, then bake the rest of the way with the savory ingredients.