Boston Baked Beans from 1968
Oooh, what a square meal! Roasted brussels, boiled carrots, baked potato with vegan sour cream, and baked beans. The baked beans are the Boston Baked Beans, from the 1968 cookbook Cooking for Company, by the food editors of Farm Journal. Of course, this cookbook can’t ever hope to attain the greatness of my favourite cookbook of all time, 1965’s Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook. Pie recipes stand the test of time far better than other dishes, and the kitsch quotient, er, historical interest, er, food and social mores that are horrifying, fascinating, and grotesque, all dwindle a bit in the intervening three years between publication dates. But Cooking for Company still ranks high in my small vintage cookbook collection.
There are five recipes for baked beans in the book, with Boston Baked Beans serving as the basic, most “authentic” recipe, followed by shoutouts to Michigan, the “West,” the “Rocky Mountain Area,” and convenience more generally (using canned beans in sauce, for “when you’re pressed for time.”) The introduction to the section on baked beans tells us:
The hostess who lives on Cape Cod has no problem deciding what to have for supper when she has guests on Saturday. A pot of baked beans is the traditional main dish. Guests expect it. Women in other areas find this old-time favourite equally popular. There’s something friendly about the aroma of beans baking that permeates the house on a snowy evening.
Fascinating: all the heavy-handed talk of community expectations, normative gender prescriptions, and traditions; smells being “friendly.”
Here’s the recipe, halved and adjusted for lack of pork fat.
Boston Baked Beans
1 c. dried navy beans
about 4-5 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 small onion, trimmed and peeled, but left whole
1 t. dry mustard
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. molasses (I used blackstrap)
Soak beans overnight. Place beans, salt, and water in a pot and simmer until tender, about one hour (mine were quite tender at a little less than an hour, depends on age of the beans). Measure out a scant 1 c. of bean-cooking liquid (add water if necessary), drain rest of liquid. In the bottom of a smallish casserole, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sesame oil, sprinkle with a bit of smoked salt (this sentence is what subs for the salt pork thing). See picture below! Add beans and wedge the onion into the middle. Mix the mustard, sugar, and molasses with the reserved bean liquid and pour over beans. See picture below! Drizzle a bit more olive oil over and a bit more smoked salt. Cover and bake five to seven hours “in a slow oven” (300F), adding more water if needed. I needed a little less than five hours.
I find all baked beans a little too sweet to want all the time, but this was fun to make!