When the weather starts to turn cool is when I love to get my oven crankin' and cook warm comfort foods that fill my kitchen with delicious savory smells. I would normally think of baked beans as a summer side dish, but what I realized as I was cooking these is that they are definitely are perfect fall food. They slow bake in your oven and are warm, savory and sweet, filling your kitchen with all sorts of home cooked goodness. Even though these beans are slow cooked and take a good long while to bake, the actual hands-on time is really short.
This recipe calls for Navy beans which I had never really used before. These beans are also known as butter beans and after cooking these I can definitely see why - they have a mild buttery flavor with a smooth creamy texture. So good and perfect for baked beans.
The key ingredient in Boston baked beans is the molasses. Back when the city was first colonized, it became an exporter of rum and molasses is needed in the distillation process. The people would add molasses to their beans creating the very popular dish Boston Baked Beans. It was so popular that Boston is actually referred to as Beantown. Wow - who knew? Traditionally, baked beans are also made with salt pork - but just saying the words salt pork gives me the shivers and so I chose to do a vegetarian version making this dish a lot more healthy than traditional versions.
Lets get started! The first step is to soak your dried beans. You can either cover with water and soak overnight, or use the quick soak method and cover with water, heat until boiling and then turn off the heat and cover letting them soak for 1-2 hours. I used the quick soak method for these and they turned out great - I soaked them for about 1 1/2 hours.
Next you will add the rest of your ingredients to a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Whisk them together creating a delicious sauce.
Next you will add in your onions and beans. Give it a good stir and get everything nice and covered.
Cover and bake in your oven at 325 degrees F for 3-4 hours. You will want to check it occasionally and will likely need to add more water during this cooking process. I had to add about 2 extra cups of water throughout the cooking process. When they are done, taste them and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mmmmm - you will have a big pot of rich, thick and flavorful beans. These are great served as a meal by themselves with crusty bread or sweet cornbread, but also make a great side dish to any meal.