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Vegetarian Boston Baked Beans
Boston Baked Beans Introduction
Traditionally, this hearty recipe is made with a chunk of salt pork for flavor and some fat content. As meat goes, it is a very minuscule amount, and the pork is left in the pot; not served with the beans. (There is actually precious little "meat" in salt pork--it is mostly a chunk of fat and rind.)
Nonetheless, for vegetarian purists and vegans, even a tiny bit of meat can add an unwanted flavor, or be considered as a contaminant.
As a practicing vegetarian since the mid 1980's, and missing my mother's "BBB," (as we used to refer to this dish), I eliminated the pork and found another way to keep the recipe as genuine as possible.
- The honey is optional, if you want the beans a bit sweeter.
- The vegetable oil replaces the fat content lost by omitting the salt pork, but is not mandatory.
- The liquid smoke is optional, and is what replaces the salt pork flavoring. It can be omitted if you have objections to this product.
- 2 Cups small white beans, sorted, rinsed, and soaked
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dark molasses
- 1 heaping tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup honey, (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 tsps. liquid smoke flavoring, (optional)
- boiling water, to just cover the beans
- 1 small onion, chopped fairly fine
Before You Begin
The first thing you need to do is to sort, rinse, and then soak the beans overnight. My linked article explains all of that in detail.
- Prep time: 24 hours
- Cook time: 8 hours
- Ready in: 32 hours
- Yields: Apporximately one dozen 1 cup servings
Please do not freak out about the preparation and cooking time. Much of it is unattended time, while the beans soak overnight, and bake in the oven. You are free to do other things during these hours, such as get some quality sleep while the soaking happens.
- Cover the soaked beans fully with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil until the skins roll back when blown upon, about 20 minutes.
- Drain the beans. Start a pot of fresh water on the stove to boil.
- Place all ingredients except the beans in the bottom of a bean pot or 2-quart casserole with a snug-fitting lid.
- Dump the beans into the pot or casserole on top of the other ingredients. Pour boiling water over the top to just barely cover the beans. Cover the pot.
- Place beans into the oven at 350 (Fahrenheit scale) for 8 hours. You will want to check them every hour or so, and top off with a bit more boiling water. Don't let them cook dry.
- At the end of the cook time, remove bean pot to a heat-proof mat, and allow to stand for a few moments prior to serving.
Ooops! Check Your Cooking Pot First!
I actually have an antique bean pot that my mother used; it was her mother's before her. I've used it myself in the past, but it suddenly occurred to me that as old as it is, the glaze used on the pot is undoubtedly a lead-based glaze. Not wise to use such containers for food, now that we know these things that prior generations did not.
I was therefore going to use the crockery insert from my slow cooker instead, but still wanted the beans done in the oven, as is traditional. Lo and behold, did I ever goof! It turned out the handle on the lid is plastic, and before it was in the oven very long, it had melted out of shape!
A quick switch was in order, and I had to dump the beans into a Corning Ware casserole dish, which has a lid and handle fully formed of glass. (This is why the beginning photos of the ingredients do not match the end photo of the finished dish.)
Normally, you do not stir the beans during cooking, but this time, they got fully stirred and mixed during the pot-changing process. Oh, well. No harm is done if you do stir or mix; it just is not the traditional method.
Lesson learned: check your cookware prior to putting it in the oven so you know it can handle the heat!
Be sure to have a snug-fitting lid to cover your beans as they cook. This will both protect your oven from spatters and help keep the moisture in the beans.
The photos below have the lid removed for photo purposes, but you can see by the sides of the dish what a mess you might have without the lid. The clear glass lid to the pot I used was so covered with splatter that it became opaque! Photos through the lid would have been impossible.
We used to always have just the beans with brown bread, and maybe a tossed salad. Other vegetables can be added as a side dish, perhaps squash or spinach.
The beans can be eaten plain, or served with ketchup (a kid favorite), or some like them with piccalilli, a sweet relish made from green tomatoes, another New England tradition.
My mother used to eat leftover baked beans cold, in a sandwich with mayonnaise. I never got into that--it doesn't even sound good to me. But apparently is an Old New England practice, for that is where she grew up.
Enjoy your fresh, home made baked beans any way you choose; there are no right or wrong ways, as long as you like what you are eating.
© 2014 Liz Elias