Boston-style Baked Beans (via Tokyo)

Hard to believe isn’t it, that these started as lily-white great Northern beans? Besides all the extra minerals, especially iron, that is packed in unsulphured (also known as “blackstrap) molasses, it also adds such a rich color to everything you cook with it: bread, cookies, Boston-style baked beans.

We’ve been making this recipe from The Bean Bible since 2001. We’ve tweaked the original recipe many times over to include more spices, especially mustard powder, and sometimes even a serrano chile or two. With a nice crusty bread, it’s really a meal in itself.

When I mentioned baked beans and brown bread in an earlier post, I knew that after a 3-year absence there would be baked beans in our near future. Well, that was last week. But as I made up my shopping list and automatically added salt pork for the recipe to the list, I asked myself: Do we really needed salt pork to make this dish so tasty? Hmmm… Now, I love pork, amost meats, really, but during the last 3 years of learning from my fellow bloggers, especially those who are vegetarians or come from vegetarian traditions, I realized that you don’t always need to add meat to beans and pulses to make them delicious or luscious. In fact, many of our meat-less meals during the week are meat-less beans. The key, it seemed, is developing a good base of aromatics, including generous amounts of cooking oil and toasted spices. OK, that’s true of all good cooking, so what could I do to keep the flavor of baked beans true to its recipe, but without the salt pork that provides so much umami and body (by way of fat)?

It was a puzzlement…

The answer came later as I started planning for another dish — something completely unrelated: miso-marinated salmon. We had salmon (check), we had ginger (check), we had miso (*lightbulb moment*)… Yes, we had miso! Umami-packed, mineral rich, luscious miso paste! That was it — substitute miso paste for salt pork! Why not give it a try?

So I diced the onion and sauteed it, instead of leaving whole with cloves stuck in it as called for in the recipe. Also added a few cloves of garlic and a touch more of certain spices to ramp up the aromatics. As the beans cooked, I tasted to correct any seasoning, and thought the miso really hit the right spot for flavor in the beans — they were full-flavored, umami-licious and tender. But one thing bothered me. Something was missing: the rich mouthfeel that comes with beans cooked with fatty meats like salt pork — I like that! Fortunately, the fix was an easy one: add more olive oil. Yes, it’s more fat, but it’s monounsaturated fat which is supposed to good for your heart, so no guilt here!

A bowl of of these sweet and savory beans are winging their way across the Atlantic to sweet Simona at briciole, this month’s host for My Legume Love Affair, an event celebrating the humble bean, and the brainchild of that Well-Seasoned Cook, Susan. Simona is accepting recipes for this, the 31st edition of MLLA, until the end of this month. But you can plan ahead for future events by checking out the line-up of future hosts here.

This recipe tweak all began with molasses-rich Anadama Bread, the start of my resolution to bake bread at home. Our second Anadama loaf, shaped into a braid this time, was the perfect accompaniment to these beans.

MEATLESS BOSTON-STYLE BAKED BEANS
Inspired by The Bean Bible by Aliza Green
Serves 6-8 persons

1lb (455g) dried great Northern beans
4 TBL olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
1½ TBL ground mustard powder
1 TBL ground ginger
8 whole cloves, placed in teaball or wrapped in cheesecloth
1 cup (240ml/ 350g) unsulphured (aka blackstrap) molasses
1 cup (190g) raw sugar, or (200g) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60ml or 88g) shiro miso paste
2-3 TBL olive oil (optional, but recommended)

Soak beans in 2 qt/L cold water overnight. Or, bring dried beans and water to boil over high heat, then remove from heat and cover for 1 hour.

Drain rehydrated beans and add to slow-cooker with 6 cups (1½ liters) cold water. Set heat setting to HIGH. It’s important NOT to add any salt at this point. If salt is added to the cooking water before the interior of the bean has started to soften, the shell with toughen and the interior will remain hard. Leave on HIGH for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, cook onions and garlic (if using) in first 4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mustard and ginger powders, stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. After beans have cooked alone for 3 hours, add aromatics to slow-cooker, along with molasses, sugar, salt, pepper, miso and remaining olive oil. Turn heat down to LOW for remaining 5 hours.

Sauce will thicken and beans will become tender when cooked through. Serve with your favorite crusty bread as a meal, or as a side dish with grilled hot dogs, brats or burgers.


For the carnivores in your life, you can quickly turn these into
Franks and Beans by topping with your favorite hot dog.