I am the proud owner of my mother’s cherished bean pot. For decades, there was not a family celebration that did not include “Jeanne’s Beans”, Especially as Christmas approaches, I will make a couple of batches of beans, not just for the food, but also for the opportunity to rekindle the memory of my late mom cooking those savory morsels. I always remember the day of Christmas Eve and smell of beans in the oven. Good memories, indeed.
I use all the same ingredients as my mom did, with the exception of occasionally substituting thick cut bacon for salt pork. Bacon imparts a little smokiness, but also carries lower sodium content (something of which I find important for my health).
Experience has led me to conclude that the most critical element of making a proper batch is the choice of molasses. I personally prefer Grandma’s Molasses. For me, no other brand imparts the correct flavor. That, however, is my personal opinion only.
In addition, don’t add any salt to the water when parboiling the beans. This will make them more difficult to get tender.
The cooking process starts with soaking dried beans the night before, about an hour of hands on time at the stove and then about 6 hours of cook time in the oven. A proper ceramic bean pot is recommended. Honestly, I won’t even try to give any advice on how to make this recipe in a crock pot or other cooking vessel. I would venture a guess, however, that a dutch oven would probably be the closest substitute. For this, I am a strict traditionalist and will forever faithfully use a New England-made ceramic bean pot.
Hands-on time ~ 60 minutes
Total cook time: 6-7 hours in a 300F oven
1 lb. dry pea beans
2/3 cup molasses
2 T light brown sugar
2 tsp dry, ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. salt pork or thick bacon, diced
1 cup reserved water from parboil of beans
2 additional cups of water*
Soak the beans in a bowl of cold water, wrap bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 6 hours.
Rinse the beans, place in a large sauce pot, and add water to cover. Heat to boiling and cook on low boil until the skins of the beans burst when you blow on them on a spoon. This will take about 45 minutes.
Note: the beans will naturally foam off as they give off their starch. I simply skim it off until it stops.
|Beans are ready for bean pot when the skins burst by gently blowing on them.|
|Skimmed starch from the pot.|
While beans are parboiling, chop/dice your pork and onions, and measure the molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a 2 cup measure.
|Molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.|
When the beans are ready, reserve one cup of the water and add it to the molasses, spice mixture.
Drain the beans in a colander. Now, it’s time to get everything in the pot.
Spoon one half of the beans into the bean pot. Next, add one half of the onions and the pork over the beans.
Spoon the remaining beans and the the remaining pork and onions over that.
Lastly, pour the contents of the 2 cup measure over everything.
Add enough additional tap water to completely cover the contents of the bean pot.
|Everything is in the pot, ready for lid and time in the oven.|
(*I have found that using more than 1 cup of water from the par-boil pot causes everything to get too starchy and thick.) Also, there have been times that I forgot to reserve 1 cup from the pot. No worries, you can use tap water for that and make great beans too!
Bake in a 300F oven for 6 hours. Give the pot a check after 2 hours in the oven, add a little more water if the beans are not still covered in liquid. Test after 6 hours and give additional time, as needed until beans are tender.
|Still making beans after 50 years! Aluminum foil used simply to protect a small crack from wear.|
Now, if you want to get the whole French Canadian experience as I often did as a kid growing up, serve with hot dogs or fried bologna, some bread and sliced tomato! Otherwise, enjoy as you wish!!