The Bean Project

On the radio I heard a snippet of an expert on procrastination. She said to be specific when you talk to yourself – name the exact job and not a generality like “eat better” or “get more organized.” I wish I’d heard more, it was parking lot of the school moment, but I’m imagining “eat carrots” and “clean out the paper, plastic, and foil drawer” (what are those grits that drift to the bottom in a drawer anyway?).

Baked beans have been in my mind since Boston – and flipping through “The Winter Vegetarian,” I got specific: “Maple Baked Beans.” Goldstein says these beans are baked slowly “in the New England style.” That sounded good for a windy winter weekend, the last one in January – have dinner cooking in the oven for many hours and take down the long-serving Christmas tree.

Soak one pound (that means usually two cups) of navy or pea beans overnight in water to cover, with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. The next day drain, cover with four cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer about 30 minutes (till nearly tender). Drain – but reserve the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 250° and transfer the beans to a three-quart casserole. Goldstein recommends an earthenware bean pot. Having no three-quart casserole of any kind, I used two smaller ones – with lids.

Mix together these ingredients: three quarters of a cup maple syrup (I love maple syrup, but this seemed a lot, I used a scant half cup), three tablespoons dark molasses, half cup of crushed tomatoes (I opened a small can – and added the whole thing), a teaspoon and a half dry mustard (didn’t have this, so used a couple squirts of yellow mustard), half teaspoon ground ginger, one and half teaspoons salt, freshly ground black pepper, and half teaspoon dried thyme. Pour over the beans.

Stir in a small chopped onion (I used shallots because we have gorgeous ones from the CSA), and tuck in two peeled garlic cloves and a bay leaf. Add enough of the reserved bean liquid to cover the beans (more if you like). Cover the pot and bake at 250° for five or six hours.

Goldstein says to add more liquid if necessary – but I didn’t need to. The beans and sauce bubbled and filled the house with a delicious smell. They came out of the oven (one casserole after only four hours because we were hungry) tender and flavorful – tomatoey but not too much. This recipe makes lots, so I froze a container full.

That’s a lesson of the bean project – how easy it is to freeze cooked beans – then enjoy real beans after a little thawing – almost as easy as a can. And these baked beans outdo canned ones for sure.

Thinking specifically – maple baked beans!

3 thoughts on “The Bean Project

  1. My brother is a fan of the New England “bean hole” bean supper. They dig a pit and burn something in it, then put in the pots of beans, cover it up with something else (how vague is this!) and just let the beans cook all day. My brother said they were delicious, but his friend said not so much. They had to eat the supper outside on a cold Maine evening, an experience only a true Yankee would want to repeat.

  2. I’m always amused at interpretations of recipes – you did not disappoint! My favorites are such comments as “…it said to add ___, but instead I used ___…”, “…I didn’t have ___, so I used ___…”, or “…it called for ____, but I used less/more…”

    I think these types of comments are the mark of a good home chef. I think that because I am often muttering them when I’m cooking!

    By the way, what is the purpose of the baking soda in this recipe?

    Also, I loved Crump’s comments – kind of a “fill in the blank” recipe!

  3. In my earliest day staying in Europe, when I saw how
    roast, casserole, bread, baked-potato, meat-source etc
    been cooked in one big oven, I realized, the foundation
    of the western cooking, in comparison to the Japanese
    cooking, is the cooking in a fire-place where it is kept burning 24 hours —– in a stone house.
    But Japanese cooking is based on the small fire in a wooden house, burning the twigs, hence just enough to cook —– and long before the ingredients melt and fused together. ( This is the another reason why the bean never became to the main staple food in Japan )
    So that, when I saw an elaborated, well fused-together bean cooking, soup —- I feel “This is the Western culture”

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