Baked beans and Church bean “suppahs” are a big part of Maine’s food culture. They are healthy, wholesome, nutritious, economical and very tasty. Although simple to make they do take quite a bit of time in the oven. The trade-off is a delicious staple that can be stretched out for many meals.
The recipe I’m sharing was adapted from Flavorfull Maine Baked Bean Recipes published by The Maine Department of Agriculture sometime in the 1970s.
Maine Vegetarian Baked Beans Ingredients:
16 oz dry small red beans
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp unrefined sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp spicy mustard
1 tsp salt
Spill your beans into a large bowl, pot or dutch oven. Sort through them to check for small stones or other organic material that sometimes makes its way into bagged beans.
Cover with water and soak overnight. In the morning pour the beans and water into a sieve over the sink, rinse the beans off with cold water, then place them in a pot safe to use on both the stove top and oven (ideally cast iron). Add enough water to just cover the beans.
Bring the beans to a boil, skim foam off of the surface, turn down the heat and let the beans simmer covered for about thirty minutes. Turn off the heat and do not drain the water from the pot. We want to retain the flavor and nutrition in the thick broth. Add the butter to the still-hot broth and mix it in. Next add the molasses, sugar, mustard, onions and salt. Mix it together until it looks like a pot of bean soup.
Cover and place in a preheated 300 degree oven for three hours. Check the beans halfway through to make sure they aren’t drying out; if necessary add more water. Turn off the oven at three hours but leave the pot of beans in for another two hours. This is what they look like in the pot when ready:
Sweet, tender baked beans await! If they are watery they need more time baking. I want to add that I have seen many baked bean recipes online that show them in either a watery or thick sauce. I’ve always preferred the traditional, slow baked method that yields a moist bean without a bean gravy.
Traditionally, baked beans are served with a brown bread but cornbread compliments them nicely, too. Leftover baked beans can be reheated and served on toast for breakfast and/or eaten cold in a sandwich for lunch. Yum!