Make Ahead

Best Boston Baked Beans

March 19, 2011
Author Notes

As a native Bostonian living on the West Coast, I sometimes get homesick for baked beans. This is a recipe I made for an heirloom variety called Ireland Creek Annie beans, a lovely golden legume that hold up well during cooking, but this dish would work well with a number of beans including small navy beans or anasazi. The key for creating a rich, syrupy dish is to bake the beans on low heat in the oven, and then raise the temperature and removing the lid for the last half hour so the liquid reduces and the beans develop some charred flavors. - Fairmount_market —Fairmount_market

Test Kitchen Notes

The sauce is smoky, not overly sweet, and earthy and the fragrance is intoxicating. The beans are tender in texture, but cooked quicker than expected (2 1/2 hours -- they must have been super fresh!). I love the smooth onions and tangy sauce (I used homemade ketchup, so much more flavorful than bottled). This was wonderful as a side dish, but would need more ham or bacon for a main dish -- I’d eat it for breakfast. I can see it as a vegetarian dish with bacon omitted, but more smoked paprika and garlic, and a little soy sauce. For the mustard, I used Dijon. Two thumbs up. - sarah k. —sarah k.

  • Serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried beans such as Ireland Creek Annie, if you can find them, or navy or anasazi beans
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon spicy smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 4 cups water, heated
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut the bacon into small strips (most easily done with scissors) and saute in a Dutch oven until the strips are fairly crispy. Reserve the bacon and drain off all but about 2 Tbsp bacon fat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and brown sugar and saute for another couple of minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the ketchup, mustard, molasses, and vinegar. Pour this mixture into the pot. Rinse the mixing cup with some of the hot water and add this and the remaining water to the pot. Add the rinsed beans and bacon bits, mix and heat the contents of the pot to a simmer. Then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  2. Cook the beans in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, but not falling apart. Add a little more water if they get too dry during the cooking process. Raise the heat to 400 degrees, remove the top, add salt if needed, and cook for another half hour until the sauce becomes thick and caramelized.

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Review
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: fairmountmarket.blogspot.com. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.