BOSTON BAKED BEANS
This is a time consuming dish to prepare, but the long simmering time in slow oven gives the best result.
For the dish to be ready for dinnertime, it should be put in the oven during the early morning.
250 g dry white haricot/navy/pea beans
about 150 - 200 g piece of salted, smoked streaky bacon (or replace wholly or partly with a piece of pork belly, salt pork, etc)
about 3 - 4 small shallots or 4 - 5 pearl/pickling onions
3 - 4 whole cloves
1 - 2 tsp mustard powder (Colman's)
1 - 2 tbsp dark molasses
2 tbsp (about 25 g) soft brown sugar (firmly packed)
(ground or crushed black pepper)
boiling hot water
If you do not happen to have haricot beans, white cannellini beans may be used as a substitute. In traditional recipes unsmoked salt pork is used in this dish, but I prefer smoked and salted bacon which gives more flavour to this otherwise rather a bland dish.
As cured bacon is typically very salty, no salt needs to be added to the dish. However, if you are using unsalted pork belly, etc, add some salt to the pot.
On the previous day/evening, pick over and rinse the beans with cold water and measure in a large bowl. Pour over fresh, cold water, using a minimum of three to four parts of water in volume for one part of beans.
Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator for the beans to soak for a minimum of ten hours, preferably twelve.
On the next day/morning, strain the beans, discarding the soaking water which must never be used for cooking, unlike previously stated in old, outdated cookbooks.
Rinse the beans and place in a large saucepan. Add fresh, cold water, using three to four parts of water in volume for one part of beans. Bring to a brisk boil, skimming any foam rising to the surface, lower the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for about 60 to 80 minutes, or until the beans are tender, but not thoroughly soft.
As the water in the pan will evaporate during cooking, add some new, boiling hot water. Cold, tepid or merely warm water must not be used.
Meanwhile, cut the piece of pork in smaller chunky pieces or large cubes. If the piece has a rind, leave it on. If you only have rashers of bacon at hand, you can stack them one on top of another and cut the whole stack in thick chunky slices, instead of adding separate, sliced rashers to the dish.
Top, tail and peel the onions and stud them with the cloves.
Drain the cooked beans, discarding the cooking liquid, and pour them in an oven pan/pot or casserole dish together with the pork and the onions.
Add the spices and pour over enough boiling water to cover the ingredients by about 2 to 3 centimetres.
In picture on right: Boston baked bean ingredients placed in a pot.
Cover the pan with lid and bake in oven at 120 °C for 8 to 12 hours. During the last cooking hours, if the stew seems likely to dry a bit too much, add a splash of boiling water in the pan. If, on the other hand, the stew is still rather watery, remove the lid to let the excess liquid evaporate.
The beans in the stew should remain whole and be soft and tender, not mushy.
Serve the bean stew plain, with some good bread, or to accompany fried or baked sausages and fresh salad.
Recipe source: adapted from recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/BBC Food website (2003), and chef Rufus Estes/Estes, R. (1911) Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus. Chicago: Author.