Sunday, March 6, 2011

No-thank-you helpings: baked beans

My grandfather was not a cook. Grandma was the one who spent Sundays in the kitchen amidst steaming pots and pans, producing the ubiquitous pot roast Sunday dinner. But Grandpa knew how to be an appreciative diner. He knew how to give compliments, and he knew when to get out of the way of a hurried cook. Grandpa would run to the store at least twice a Sunday to pick up things that Grandma thought she had and didn't, or had forgotten in her Saturday shopping.

Every once and a while, Grandpa would venture into the kitchen on his own. He had a small repertoire of things that he made for himself on the in-between times, or when Grandma wasn't home. They were exclusively things that he loved. And one of those things was Boston baked beans.

I thought baked beans were possibly the most disgusting things ever. A vegetarian, and an angst-filled teenager, the cold syrupy consistency of the sauce from the can, with those floating globs of bacon were enough to make my skin crawl and my throat close. I truly abhorred the maple-syrupy smell of them.

Eighteen years later, my grandfather has been gone for a long time now. His honest blue eyes, and his mild pink skin. His heavy glasses, his thin gray hair, his big hands with the gold wedding ring are well-loved memories. His smell of after-shave, Dial soap, and boat engines and lawnmowers lives only in my imagination.

In honor of my Grandpa, and on a whim, I decided yesterday to give one of his favorites a try. I can't stomach the canned variety, but I've got simmering in the oven right now my first pot of Boston beans.

  1. Salt pork, bacon and finely chopped onion in a cast-iron pot over medium heat until the fat is rendered.
  2. Add in a pound of beans (soaked), 2 tbsp of hot and spicy mustard, 1 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 c molasses and 9 c of water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, cover and place in a 300-degree oven.
  4. Bake for 2 hours and stir. Bake another 2 hours, or until beans are tender.
  5. Add 1 more tbsp molasses and a dash of cider vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

So far it smells great. Here's to it, Grandpa. Life has taught me to be more charitable. To love even the humble baked bean. Maybe I inherited a bit of your English manners after all.

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