Homemade Boston Baked Beans are far more yummy than canned beans and worth the small extra effort to prepare them. This recipe is all about comfort food. When I was a kid growing up here in New England, every Saturday supper we had beans and franks and brown bread. There is a reason that Boston is referred to often as “Beantown” and this traditional baked bean recipe is the reason.
What are the best beans to use for Boston Baked Beans?
In my opinion, this recipe makes the best Boston baked beans. Most likely my opinion is based on the fact that it was my Nana’s recipe that we had almost every Saturday night. She always used a small dried bean, usually navy beans but occasionally pinto beans. Although the packaged dried beans are usually clean, it is advisable to pick thru the beans to discard any discolored beans, and occasionally I have found tiny pieces of rock and stems, neither which you would want to bite down on when eating your beans.
How do you prepare the beans?
Making traditional baked beans is not a quick process so you need to prepare starting the night before. I use a oven-proof dutch oven. The night before I soak the beans in the dutch oven in salted water (1 tbs. of salt). In the morning I add a bay leaf and a pinch of baking soda to the pot and bring the beans to a boil, then simmer them over medium heat for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them and top with water if necessary. Preheat oven to 300°F. Prepare the sauce portion of the beans by mixing the molasses, brown sugar, mustard, black pepper and a pinch of salt together. I use a Pyrex glass measuring cup that I coat with vegetable oil before adding molasses as it will make it easier to get all the molasses mixture out of the cup. Drain the beans with a colander over a bowl and reserve all the bean liquid.
Take a knife and score the salt park on the fatty side cutting down within a 1/4 inch of the rind. Lightly brown the salt pork in the dutch oven over medium high heat until pork lightly browns and pork fat is rendered (takes about 5 minutes). Remove pot from heat and dump the beans in on top of the pork and gently stir in the diced onion. Add the molasses mixture and enough reserved bean water to completely cover the beans. Stir gently to mix. Bring the beans to a simmer. You do not want to see any beans poking through the surface. They should be completely covered with liquid. Add more bean liquid if necessary. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hrs. Remove the cover, stir gently and add hot bean water to just cover beans if needed and cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking every hour to be sure that the beans are just covered with liquid. Add more hot water if needed. Use regular water if all bean water is used up. Stir gently each time you check. Beans should be getting tender, so stir the beans thoroughly but gently one last time. Do not add any more water unless the level gets very low. Allow the beans to form a dark brown crust on top.
A classic Boston Baked Bean Recipe just like Grandma used to make!
So for my baked beans I go traditional – Old school slow oven cooking in the bean pot. We are in the process of remodeling the kitchen so the wood cookstove isn’t hooked up yet. That’s the way I usually cook them. Get all the ingredients in the bean pot and tuck them in the back of the oven. Run the woodstove “low and slow” and let the beans cook all day. I check them periodically to see if I should add water but that’s it. They’re a really easy dish to make and soooo much better than canned baked beans. Sorry, Duke but you can keep guarding the Bush family recipe! Cooking them in the woodstove also saves money. The wood energy gets to perform 2 tasks for the same price. It heats the house and cooks the beans. But this time I put them in the electric built-in oven. Traditional baked beans are a long process. There’s only one thing you can do to speed the process and that’s at the beginning. You either soak the beans overnight (12-14 hours) in cold water or you can wait till the next day and boil them in water for about 1 hour. The test for readiness “to bake” is to put a bean in a spoon and gently blow on it. If the bean is boiled enough, the skin will come off the bean as you blow. I do a combination of both. I do the overnight soak and them boil them for about 20-30 minutes and then do the “bean skin test”.
How to store your Boston Baked Beans
I no longer have three hungry boys to feed so an entire pot of beans seems to be with us for weeks But I plan them into a couple of meals through the week. One night we’ll have chili and another we’ll have some chili dogs or baked ham and beans. There are lots of possibilities. Beans go with a lot of things. I freeze the rest for later consumption. To freeze them, you just let them chill in the fridge and then put them in air tight containers. Be sure to mark the date on the container and use them in 3-6 months. They’ll taste as good as the day you made them.
So here’s the recipe –Print
Nana Smith’s Boston Baked Beans
An old New England Saturday night favorite was baked beans and franks. Nana always served it with steamed brown bread. Here’s her old recipe tried and true 100 years later!
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 8 hours
- Total Time: 8 hours 15 mins
- Category: VEGETABLE
- Cuisine: AMERICAN; NEW ENGLAND;
- 1 lb. dried beans, preferably navy
- Kosher salt
- Bay leaf
- 1/2 lb. piece of salt pork (you can also use diced bacon or a small ham hock)
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp. Dijon or brown mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- Soak beans overnight in cold water and 1 tbs of kosher salt. The next morning add a bay leaf to the pot and simmer the beans in the same water for 30-45 minutes until tender and bean skins can be gently blown off bean. Drain and reserve the liquid.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Take piece of salt pork and with rind side up, use a sharp knife and score the meat with cuts ½ inch deep making a crosshatch pattern. Sear the meat in a hot pot over medium high heat till it is golden brown. Place in the bottom of Bean pot or covered dutch oven.
- Arrange the beans on and around the salt pork and layering them with onion.
- In a bowl, combine molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, and brown sugar. Pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean liquid to cover the beans. Cover the pot with a lid.
- Bake for 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender.
- Remove the cover, stir gently and add hot bean water to just cover beans if needed and cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking every hour to be sure that the beans are just covered with liquid. Add more hot water if needed. Use regular water if all bean water is used up. Stir gently each time you check. Beans should be getting tender, so stir the beans thoroughly but gently one last time. Do not add any more water unless the level gets very low. Test for tenderness. Allow the beans to form a dark brown crust on top.
If you enjoyed this post. please, please show your support – ”like” The Wilderness Wife on Facebook or “follow” The Wilderness Wife on follow me on Pinterest and Twitter ( I promise that I am not a “twitter pest” and only tweet when there is a new post on the Wilderness Wife Blog.