by Heather Harris-Brady
Baked beans were one of my grandma’s staples, and she always made them in her beanpot. If you’ve never seen a beanpot before, it’s a squat pottery vessel with a lid. Most of the time they are brown and white, like this:
In the early days of this country native Americans baked beans in clay pots. They dug a hole, got a pile of embers going, buried the pot and covered it in deerskins. Later on, cast iron pots came to market, in addition to the clay versions which grew into the Boston tradition that’s still going today.
I myself never made baked beans because I didn’t have said beanpot. However, one day, I found one at a garage sale for $3! My kids couldn’t understand why I so excited about something that looked so boring. But, they humor me – they helped me carry it and a large mirror back to the car. Since then it’s sat on a shelf in my dining room waiting for me. Last Saturday my son said “Mom, are you ever going to use that beanpot?” And just in that instant I said, “Yes I am, tomorrow!”
It was Memorial Day weekend, with a picnic on the agenda, and if not now when? They make the house smell great while they’re baking, as a bonus.
Baked Beans, Serves 16 as a side dish
1 1-lb. bag dried great northern beans OR 1 large jar Randall’s Great Northern Beans
3/4 c. ketchup
1/3 c. French’s yellow mustard
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 c. molasses
Soak the beans overnight and discard any floaters or ones with dark spots.
Drain, put them in a saucepan with fresh water and boil until just al-dente – about two hours. (You can put them in the bean pot without this parboiling but it will take a REALLY long time – like all day – for them to cook.)
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the cooked beans with the remaining ingredients. Stir well and put them into your beanpot (or dutch oven).
Add one cup of water and put the lid on.
Bake for about two hours, stirring occasionally.
As it happens I was making these for vegetarians, but on another day I would stir in some smoked bacon ends with the rest of the ingredients. You can serve these hot, room temperature or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers. You could expect them to stay yummy for about a week for sandwiches or as a side dish.