There’s a reason bean suppers continue to be a Saturday night staple in the white-clapboarded churches up and down the coast of Maine: these baked beans take all day to cook, are inexpensive to make, and can feed a whole family, or, in the case of weekly Summertime church fundraisers, an entire community. Combine these beans with a few red-skinned hot dogs, which only cost $2 per package of 400, and have a satisfying snap to the casing, with a can of brown bread, along with plenty of ketchup and mustard, and you’ve got a well-rounded, traditional New England meal.
In Portland, the B & M factory gets a lot of attention. It’s the first thing you see when approaching the city from the North, and their canned baked beans had made up the bulk of my experience with this weekend staple. Jillian was never crazy about them, though, so to try and persuade her, I made a batch from scratch. They’re stunningly easy, though very time consuming. Start to finish, the whole process takes at least a day. But if you’ve got the time (and the ceramic bean pot), you’ll be rewarded with a batch of beans the B & M boys can’t touch: thick, smoky, perfectly sweetened beans, with plenty of flavor and fat from the salt pork, which are pulled from the oven JUST before they begin to rupture and split open. They’re a worthy accompaniment to any kind of sausage, and they deserve a place at your Saturday night supper table.
Boston Baked Beans
Adapted from a recipe in “What’s Cooking at Moody’s Diner”
- 2 cups yellow eye Maine beans
- 1 white onion, quartered
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Chunk of salt pork, 2″ x 2″ (or as much as you’d like)
Cover dry beans in liquid, and soak overnight in large bowl. Place onion in bottom of bean pot, drain beans, and add to pot. Mix brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, and ginger with a little hot water, and pour over beans. Add enough hot water to cover beans. Place chunk of salt pork on top. Cover pot, and bake at 325 degrees for six hour. Check often, adding water as needed so that beans remain covered. Remove cover for last hour of cooking.