Recipe: Traditional Maine Baked Beans

Baked beans and church bean “suppahs” are a staple of Maine’s food culture. They are healthy, wholesome, nutritious, economical and delicious. Using a few simple inexpensive ingredients you can make a large pot of beans to serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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The official word from State of Maine Department of Agriculture circa 1960s:

“Flavorfull” baked beans are a “boon to the budget.”

“One cup of cooked dried beans is equal to one small-to-medium serving of meat.”

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My own vegetarian recipe (I omit the salt pork) was adapted from a combination of vintage recipes dating back to the early 1900s through the 1960s. Just like so many other traditional foods that have strayed from their more simple and healthier origins, my earliest Maine baked bean recipes from the early 1900s called for very little added sweetener which was an inspiration for my own adaptation.

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Ingredients

16 oz dry beans (Yellow-Eye, Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier or Kidney)

1 tbsp sunflower oil or butter

1/4 cup maple syrup (preferably  Grade A dark) or molasses

1 tbsp ketchup

1/4 cup chopped onions

1 tbsp spicy golden mustard (I don’t use powdered)

1 tsp salt

Directions

Spill the beans into a large bowl, sort through to check for small stones or other material that sometimes makes its way into bagged beans and rinse. Cover completely with water and let soak overnight. In the morning place the beans and water remaining in a 5 qt cast iron dutch oven, add more water if needed so that they are covered by an inch, turn the heat to medium high and parboil. (Most current-day recipes tell you to toss the water they’ve been soaking in, but why? We’ve already rinsed them and that bean water contains important vitamins!) In a bowl combine the other ingredients and set aside.

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The beans are ready when you place a few beans on a cooking spoon, blow on them and their skins split open (about ten minutes). Turn off the heat, add the ingredients from the bowl, gently mix, then bake uncovered in a 300 degree oven for three hours. Add water during baking only if the beans on top become dry.

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Traditionally, baked beans are served with steamed brown bread (above) or Johnny cakes/corn bread. Leftover baked beans can be reheated and served on toast for breakfast and/or eaten in a sandwich for lunch. Yum!

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I wonder if this blog post will earn me a “reputation as a cook with State of Maine Beans”?!

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