In case you’ve missed my many announcements, next month I’m presenting a workshop at Hearts Through History’s Campus on Pioneering Women of the West. In honor of that, I looked for something that the women on a wagon trail would have cooked and came across a recipe for Boston Baked Beans. Beans were a staple to the families traveling west. This recipe comes from FARM JOURNAL’S COOKING AND ENTERTAINING IN AMERICA. The book says this about baked beans:
The Puritans arrived in Boston ten years after the Pilgrims and landed in Boston. The Puritan Sabbath started at sundown on Saturday and continued until sundown on Sunday. Though they could eat, Puritans were forbidden to work, including cooking, on the Sabbath. So, “On Saturday morning they put big pots of beans in their ovens to bake all day. These supplied hot beans for Saturday’s evening meal, some still warm for Sunday breakfast, and for another meal, sometimes cold, after church on Sunday.”
It continues, “Although the strict observance of the Sabbath died out in the 19th century, the custom of having Boston Baked Beans for Saturday’s evening meal and the leftovers for breakfast on Sunday was firmly established that it continued and still does in some New England homes.”
The Farm Journal cookbook claims, recipes vary from home to home, but they must contain salt pork and molasses or a combination of molasses and brown sugar or maple sugar. And they must cook for a long time to develop the flavor and rich brown sauce. Baked beans, Boston or otherwise, would have been cooked when the wagon train laid over a day or two, giving the women a chance to let the beans cook for a while, and they would have eaten them for the next day or two.
Boston Baked Beans
2 cups dry navy beans
6 cups cold water
1 tsp salt
¼ pound salt pork
1 medium onion (optional)
2 tsp dry mustard
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup molasses
Wash beans. Combine beans and cold water in a large kettle. Bring to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour (or soak overnight).
Add salt; simmer about 1 hour or until beans are tender. Drain, reserving 1¾ cup bean liquid. Add water if necessary; set aside.
Cut a slice from the salt pork and put it in bottom of bean pot or Dutch oven. Add beans. Place onion in center of beans.
Mix mustard, sugar, and molasses into reserved bean liquid; pour over beans.
Cut 3 gashes in remaining salt pork; place on beans, rind side up.
Cover and bake in 300° oven 5 to 7 hours, adding more water as needed. Remove cover from bean pot the last 30 minutes of baking so pork rind will brown and become crisp. Makes 6 servings.
There's still time to enter a free workshop registration for PIONEERING WOMEN OF THE WEST. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with Workshop Contest in the subject line. I'm drawing for a winner on July 16th.