Years ago my friend Robin's husband, a potter, gave me a brown beanpot that he made. Robin was kind of annoyed (she wanted to keep it) but maybe she'd feel better to know that I still have that pot and wouldn't make baked beans without it. This recipe is pretty typical; the author says it is from his great-aunt Josephine from Norway (Norway, Maine, that is!) and I've used it as long as I've had the beanpot.

(Source: The Peasant Gourmet, Jonathan Bartlett. McGraw-Hill, 1975)
2 c dried beans (Josephine likes red kidney beans, I prefer Great Northern)
1 medium onion
1/2 lb salt pork (I used about 1/4 lb cheap bacon)
2 T brown sugar (I use 3 T)
2 tsp mustard (dried)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 c molasses (I use 3 T)

Wash the beans and cover them with water and about 3" more. Soak overnight. In the morning, simmer slowly until the skins wrinkle- about 1 hr or so. (Josephine says the beans are done if the skin breaks when you blow on the beans.) Drain the beans, saving the water, which should be kept hot. Put the onion in the bottom of the beanpot (I cut it in quarters first); add the beans. Score the salt pork (chop the bacon) and place into a depression in the beans. Mix the brown sugar, mustard, pepper, salt, and molasses and add to the beans.

Add enough of the hot bean water to cover the beans, put the top on the bean pot, and bake at 450 deg for 3 hr (personally, I think 2 hr at 450 deg is long enough), then 325 deg for another 4 hr. Look at the beans every hour to make sure you can see the water, adding hot bean water as needed so they don't dry out. Remove the cover during the last hour so that the beans aren't too wet. Serves 6.

NOTE: The beans should be essentially cooked before you put them in the oven. The water the beans boiled in should be used to wet them during baking because it contains a lot of the starch that binds them. If you add baking soda (1-2 tsp)to the bean water while soaking/cooking, it will reduce the gassiness of the beans. Seems to work, so I do. Be careful about how much you add though; baking soda has sodium and is salty.

Updated: April 5, 1996
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