A traditional baked bean supper. (KATHY D’AGOSTINO PHOTO)
Driving by the now-closed B&M factory in Portland last week, it made me sad to think I will no longer smell the beans baking when I pass by. Nothing beats the aroma of a pot of beans baking in the oven. It inspired me to roll up my sleeves and make some.
Beans have been a New England staple since the 17th century. Many of us have gone to a Saturday night baked bean church supper. Others have attended bean hole festivals or made baked beans for a potluck. Now, with Memorial Day approaching, baked beans remain a favorite cookout side dish.
I wondered, who would have an authentic New England recipe? Louise Chamberland came to mind. Lou is a member of Cooking at 43° North and the owner of Lulu’s Kitchen. In her spare time, she and her husband, Claude, do some catering and provide delicious food for local events and gatherings. For those of you who were lucky enough to attend Harpswell Aging at Home’s Snacks with Friends in 2021 at Mitchell Field and Mackerel Cove, you got to taste their grilled pizza, so you know what I’m talking about.
Lou grew up in northern Aroostook County, where a baked bean “suppah” is still a tradition. This tradition remains intact at Lou and Claude’s house every Saturday night and is “part of the marriage contract,” according to Claude. Thank you, Lou!
LOU’S BAKED BEANS
1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) navy or small beans
2-3 onions, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup molasses
3 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Cover beans with water and bring to a boil in a large pot. Turn off heat and let sit for 3-5 hours.
- Spray bean pot or Dutch oven with cooking spray.
- Put all the other ingredients in the greased bean pot or Dutch oven.
- Drain beans and rinse well. Add 2-3 quarts of water to beans and bring to a boil again.
- Add beans, with their cooking water, to the other ingredients in your bean pot or Dutch oven. Stir up a bit, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 hours. Check your beans after 4 hours and recheck to make sure there is always enough water. Add warm water as you go, as needed, to make sure beans do not dry out.
Options: For a sweeter bean recipe, reduce maple syrup to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
Like your beans with bacon? Add 6 slices of cooked bacon cut up in 1-inch pieces, along with 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Stir in and bake.
Note: This recipe makes a lot. Beans can be frozen easily. Fully defrost before reheating in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour.
3 cups warm water with 2 tablespoons yeast dissolved in it
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil (olive or canola)
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups flour
- Combine all ingredients and knead for 10 minutes or use a mixer with a dough hook and mix for 4 minutes.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place, in a greased or oiled bowl, until double in size (about an hour).
- When doubled in size, remove to a floured surface and, with your floured hands, knead a bit and divide and roll dough into about 15 rolls.
- Place rolls in a 12-by-15 casserole pan, greased or lined with parchment. Cover and let rise (about 30 minutes).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 1/2 hour. Check after about 18 minutes to be sure they don’t get too brown. Cool on a rack.
Note: Buns can be frozen. When cooled, seal in a plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost and wrap in aluminum foil. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 3-5 minutes.
Cooking at 43° North is a program of Harpswell Aging at Home. Through this column, the program shares favorite dishes from friends and neighbors in the community.
HAH always needs cooks for its Meals in a Pinch program, which provides nutritious meals to neighbors in need. For more information, contact Julie Moulton at 207-330-5416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.