For many people, Boston baked beans are the quintessential baked bean recipe. They bring together smokey bacon, spicy cloves and sweet brown sugar, along with tender white beans, slow-cooked until they reach thick, sticky perfection. But why are they called Boston baked beans?
It turns out that these sweet baked beans date back to Native American times. Northeastern tribes taught the Pilgrims to bake beans low and slow over a fire. Because of Massachusetts’ strategic location in the Triangle Trade system, they had plenty of molasses on hand to combine with sugar cane from the West Indies to create rum, and so a little sweetness snuck into the beans.
In the 1700s, baked beans were prepared on Saturday nights and left in brick ovens overnight. On Sunday, Sabbath rules forbid cooking, but they could eat the warm beans, along with dense brown bread. In some parts of New England, brown bread and baked beans are still a favorite Sunday night meal.
Whether you’re using this recipe as a meal on its own or as a side dish at your next cookout, remember that the longer you cook it, the better it gets.
The sauce gets a chance to reduce and thicken, concentrating all those smoky-sweet flavors into an unforgettable concoction. We chose brown sugar for our family’s recipe, but you’ll find it still packs just as much a punch as the traditional molasses.
- 4 tablespoons butter, (or margarine)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 1/2 cups of Randall Great Northern Beans, drained
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 slices good smoked bacon, diced
In a small skillet, sauté the onion for 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, stir together the onion, beans, sugar, molasses and seasonings. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Top with the bacon pieces.
Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 1 1/2 hours.
8 to 10 servings.
Brown bread is the traditional accompaniment to baked bean dishes.
Ready to start planning your picnic? Just don’t forget the Randall Great Northern Beans! Check your local grocery store or if you can’t find them you can always have these delicious beans in a jar shipped straight to you from our online store.