Boston baked beans

Doesn’t it take forever to make baked beans?

No, not really. You can start after lunch and have delicious baked beans in time for dinner, if you’ll be home all afternoon. There’s not more than half an hour of total work time involved, but it’s spread out over four hours. So yeah, it’s not something you can whip up after you get home from work. Even if you use canned beans, it would still take two and a half hours to bake. That’s why they sell canned baked beans, which are cheap and good and can make a good quick dinner if you are pressed for time, with some coleslaw and maybe bread and butter.

How to make baked beans from scratch:

After lunch, put 2 cups of white navy beans into a large pot with plenty of water, stir once, cover, and put them on to boil. After about an hour and a half, or when the beans are soft, preheat the oven to 375. Scoop the beans out of the water with a slotted spoon into a casserole or oven-safe roasting pan (save the water for later). Chop an onion and 1/4 pound of bacon and mix in with the beans. In a small bowl, mix together all of these: a cup of tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. anchovy paste (do not leave this out! use chopped canned anchovies if necessary), 1 tablespoon of mustard. Mix all that into the beans, and add the water the beans cooked in until the beans are just barely covered with liquid. Put the casserole in the oven to bake.

After about two hours, take the casserole out and sprinkle a thick layer of breadcrumbs on the top. Bake another half hour or an hour. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for five minutes, then serve with cole slaw (that’s just chopped cabbage and carrots, with a spoonful of mayonnaise and a pinch of salt and pepper).

Vegetarian or vegan

Baked beans are vegan if you leave out the bacon and the anchovy paste. Substitute some miso. It’s not a very fancy vegan main dish, but it sticks to your ribs.

Can I keep baked beans for later?

Yes, baked beans will just taste even better the next day, and you can keep them in the refrigerator, well sealed up in a tupperware, for a week. They won’t freeze well though.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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