Baked Beans

My mother’s contribution to nearly every holiday feast we had growing up was her from-scratch baked beans.

Baked beans are a classic British dish, often served as breakfast with a full English (which also includes grilled tomatoes, fried eggs, and fried pork) or on toast. My father’s mother, Elsie, always ensured she’d have some of the leftover baked beans to take home, if possible, for her favorite beans-on-toast.

Today, it’s easy to buy baked beans in a can to heat and eat. Recipes for their use as a base also abound. However, the original recipe can’t be topped by something out of a can.

This classic features heavily in the Little House series, in which Laura Ingalls Wilder describes her mother’s procedure for making baked beans and bean soup as staples of winter eating. It was years before I connected those stories with my mother’s recipe and my own enjoyment of baked beans. Another recipe for them can be found in Barbara Walker’s excellent Little House Cookbook.

This recipe, however, comes directly from my mother, who notes that the “bean pot” — a covered crock–is key to the success of the dish. She also notes that her sister, my aunt Julie, often skips the first step and uses plain, rinsed-and-drained, canned navy beans as her starter to cut down on prep time.

Linnea’s Baked Beans

Soak overnight:

1 lb. navy beans.

In the morning, drain the beans, cover again with fresh water and ¾ t. baking soda, and bring just to a simmer. Skim off foam as beans cook. They’re ready when you can spoon up a few and blow on them and the skins crack. Drain again, and add beans to the bean pot.

Add:

½ c. brown sugar

1 sm. onion, chopped

¼ to ⅓ c. molasses

½ lb. bacon, chopped

½ t. black pepper

⅓ t. dry mustard

1 T. salt

Add just enough water to cover the beans. Bake at 300 degrees for at least four hours.

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