On This Day, Boston Baked Beans Fare Better Than Football Team

Boston baked beans seemed right for a conference championship game.(Valley News - Dan Mackie)

Boston baked beans seemed right for a conference championship game.(Valley News - Dan Mackie)

Last year I was called to account by several readers for using an insufficiently authentic recipe for baked beans. “You’ve stuck your foot in it this time, Mackie,” said one message left by a caller, who added that he didn’t like my writing, but he’d let it go until I failed his bean purity test.

As I recall, I used a recipe for New England-“style” baked beans, which might have involved a dollop of heretical ketchup. A kindly Vermont woman also called to gently correct me, although she took no position on the rest of my work.

I’d been meaning to revisit baked beans, but one thing led to another which didn’t lead to anything at all, and I didn’t get back to it until last weekend, when the New England professional football team — it’s too painful to even type the name right now — was to play in the conference championship, almost assuredly to win and advance to the Super Bowl.

For years my wife has been ignoring my hints to make a football-friendly spread and wait on me during a big football game, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by taking another shot at baked beans, meanwhile honoring the Boston origins of said professonal football team. I owned a bean pot, thanks to the enthusiasm that accompanied last year’s story, so it would be a win-win. Surely.

I shouldn’t have proscratinated about beans. In addition to the fact that I really like them, they are also good for you. With plentiful protein, fabulous fiber, and bonuses such as antioxidants and phytochemicals — whatever they are — beans deserve respect.

And as for potential gas, well, I wouldn’t load up on them at a state dinner, but as long as you are in the privacy of your own home and among consenting adults, why not?

I found an “official’’ recipe for Boston baked beans, so declared by a small company that makes bean pots that look a lot like mine. I noted in online discussions that there are many variations concerning baked beans, but I was looking for orthodoxy. “Official” it would be.

As it happened, the distraction of bean prep was perfect, so I wasn’t tempted to watch the loathsome pregame shows. I followed the recipe with all the devotion I would give a Belichickian game plan. (Fans of a certain professional football team will catch my drift.) I expected the final product to add to the sweet taste of victory. This recipe is simple, easy, and it works.

“Official Recipe”
Boston Baked Beans

Serves 8

2-1/2 Quart Bean Pot Version

1 package (1 pound) navy or pea beans (I used Navy beans)

1/4 pound salt pork, cut in 2 pieces

1 small whole onion, peeled

1 teaspoon dry mustard

8 cups water

1/3 cup molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soak beans overnight in a large sauce pan in 6 cups of water. Add baking soda. Heat to boiling and simmer 10 minutes. Drain in colander over a large bowl. Save liquid.

Place beans, salt pork and onion in the bean pot. Add molasses, salt, sugar, dry mustard, pepper and a cup of water. Stir thoroughly. Add enough water to cover the beans. Cover the bean pot.

Bake 2 hours at 300 degrees. Add the rest of the water and stir again. Bake additional 1-1/2 hours (or until beans are tender). Uncover last 1/2 hour.

As it happened, the beans were ready in the first quarter, when the football game was going well. This recipe produces baked beans that are sweet, with a nice molasses kick. I accompanied the beans with sweet Italian sausages from McKenzie of Vermont, which more than proved up to the task. My wife declared the beans and sausage a hit — a big hit. Sadly, my football team was about to be on the receiving end of big hits of another sort. In the second half, they faded, entirely, unlike my bounty of beans.

And so, our joy was incomplete, despite the fine baked beauties. I will make them again, but next time celebrating nothing but beans.

The writer can be reached at dmackie@vnews.com.