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My Mother is from Boston February 26, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Family, food porn, random stuff.

. . . and my father is from California.

And I was born in Chicago.

And you thought your childhood was screwed up.

So anyway.  My mother is from Boston, and if there’s one thing Boston people know, other than seafood, it’s beans.


My mother even had an honest-to-god bean pot and everything.


And she even used it on occasion, too.  She probably still has it, for all I know.

Unlike me.

I found a mini bean pot at the pottery shop a few years ago, and I had to buy it.

And I’ve never once used it.

Actually, it’s too small for a full batch of beans.


A half batch, maybe, but if you’re going to make beans, who wants to make half a batch?

Anyway, a couple of months ago, I was sorting though some of my old recipes, and I actually found the “recipe” my mother gave me for her baked beans.

I say “recipe” in “quotes” because, like so many of my mother’s recipes, it’s essentially a list of ingredients (sort of) with something that might be construed as directions.

PhotobucketIn this case, the “recipe” was written, in pencil, by me, on the back of a sheet of spiral notebook paper.  Judging by what was on the front of the paper, my best guess is that my mother told me how to bake beans over the phone when Surly Boy was an infant.  That would be, um, in the 80’s.

Yeah.  We can do this.


The first thing I did was take a pound of great northern beans and sort through them, rinse them, and soak them overnight.  In the morning, I drained the beans.

Then I took about 1/4 lb. of salt pork (yes, it’s actually available in the supermarket – you’ve just gotta look for it) and a couple of slices of bacon, and diced them, which gets browned in a dutch oven (so much handier than a ceramic bean pot, you’ve got to admit!).

While the pork products are rendering, we dice a decent sized onion then measure the rest of the ingredients:

  • Photobucket½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt

Meanwhile, once most of the fat has rendered from the salt pork and the bacon, we cook the onion just until it’s softened.


Then we add the beans, along with the molasses mixture, and a couple of quarts of water.

We actually only had black strap molasses in the house, and we really don’t want a molasses flavor quite that robust – go with something milder if at all possible.

Besides, it’s fun to go to the supermarket and ask for the Mole Asses.

Where was I?

Crank up the heat to medium-high, and bring the whole thing up to a boil.

Boy, that’s a lot water, isn’t it?


Once the bean and water mixture comes up to a boil, slap a lid on it and shove it in a Low and Slow oven. . . and by that, I mean 300°.

Did I mention we’re going to be here all day?

You’ll thank me later.

Shove the  “bean pot” into the oven and just walk away.  Walk away for at least 4 hours.  You can check after 2 hours, and stir if you need to, but seriously, just let it cook.

Then you can pull it out and take a look.


There’s still an awful lot of liquid there – so just remove the top, shove it back in the oven, and let it reduce for a couple more hours.Photobucket

And you might want to start scrubbing the lid.  😯


Check for seasonings – salt and pepper.

Then it’s ready to go.

However, sticking it in the fridge for a couple of days certainly won’t hurt, and then you have the option of hot OR cold beans.


We were very fortunate to enjoy that rare  animal – a February evening that’s not quite dark by dinnertime, and warm enough to get out the grill.  We were able to enjoy grilled white hots and baked beans, along with homemade mac salad and coleslaw.

I miss grilling season.




1. origamifreak - February 26, 2009

Really?! ‘Cuz MY mom was from Boston (well, Cambridge), and MY dad was from CA, too. (I was born in CA, though, not IL)

Maybe that explains something about why your viewpoints are accessible to me. 🙂

2. origamifreak - February 26, 2009

P.S. You are traditionally supposed to serve brown bread with Boston baked beans. Did YOUR mother neglect to mention this? 😉

3. Toy Lady - February 27, 2009

That could be so. 🙂

And no, my mother was a HUGE fan of brown bread, though my father. . . not so much. 🙄

Therefore, we rarely had it with beans (or at all, except as an extra special treat for Mother!), and it just never became as “ingrained” for me. Besides, while spending the ENTIRE DAY cooking, the last thing I want to do is screw around with water baths and tin cans! 😆

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