Prepared in a Dutch Oven, of course!
If you’ve ever heard of Boston, you may have heard it being referred to as “Beantown”.
And–although most people from around here never refer to Boston as Beantown (really…never ever!)–baked beans have been a staple at Bostonian tables for generations. And for good reason! Beans are nutritious, hearty and inexpensive to prepare. With a pound of dried navy beans, a chunk of salt pork, some molasses and a few other simple ingredients, you could appease a large family on a cold Saturday night–the traditional bean eating night.
I’m not old enough to remember when Saturdays were regular bean cooking days, but I do recall preparing baked beans for special occasions–such as Easter–and, of course, seeing beans offered as a side dish on every New England menu, including at Durgin Park. Baked beans are especially good as a compliment to scrambled eggs or served for with boiled hot dogs for supper. Yes, hot dogs are boiled or steamed in New England and served on open topped buns, too! We’re weird, I know…
If you’re not from Boston you might be wondering what exactly Durgin Park is. I’m sure you’ve figured out it isn’t a park at all, but a restaurant. A very old New England restaurant.
Actually Durgin Park is the second oldest restaurant in Boston–second only to the Union Oyster House, which has been serving food since the days of the Revolution! And two hundred years later, the Durgin Park menu is still full of all the old New England favorites–lobsters, chowder, Indian Pudding, Yankee Pot Roast and, of course, baked beans.
Back in the 80s, Durgin Park distributed their famous recipes as a souvenir, which is where I got my recipe. I don’t dare change anything about the original recipe for fear of being accused of making improvements on an already perfect thing. My only adjustment is to use my new mini Dutch Oven instead of a traditional (but messy) bean pot.
- One pound of dried navy beans, soaked overnight
- 1/2 tsp of baking soda (for the parboiling)
- 1/2 pound of salt pork (or thick cut bacon if not available), cut into chunks
- 1/3 cup dark molasses
- 1 tsp dried mustard
- 1/2 of a medium sized onion, peeled but not cut
- 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper
- 4 tablespoons of sugar (I prefer brown sugar, but the recipe does not specify)
- 3 cups of hot water to start plus more as beans cook
- Begin preparing the beans the night before by soaking them in water. You may need to add more water halfway through the soaking process as the beans rehydrate, so check them before you go to sleep. Don’t try to use canned beans for this recipe or to rush the soaking and parboiling process, because we Yankees will know if you did!
- In the morning, rinse the beans and boil them with the baking soda for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse the parboiled beans and set aside.
- Dice the salt pork into chunks and peel and halve the onion (do not chop). Put half of the salt port in the bottom of the pot along with the onion.
- Add the beans to the pot and cover with remaining salt pork.
- Combine salt, pepper, dry mustard, molasses and sugar with 3 cups of hot water and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture over the beans. Cover your pot.
- Bake your covered Dutch Oven (or bean pot, if you have one) in a preheated 325 degree oven for six hours, checking about every hour or so to see if the beans need water
- Top off the beans as needed throughout the baking process
- Remove the onion and salt pork bits (or not…up to you!) and serve!