If You’re British Boston Beans Taste a Whole Lot Better Than Boston Tea

Now I love Baked Beans. But they have to be Heinz. I had a friend at school who’s father would eat cold beans, straight out of the tin, at every meal they had at home. Like they were a condiment. That’s wrong really isn’t it.

For purists of course beans out of a tin (hot or cold) are as bad as mashed potato out of a packet or instant coffee. So I thought I’d have a look at how to make ‘real beans’. And for real beans I plumbed for ‘Boston Beans’.

Now after some exhaustive research (i.e. Google) I came across about 30,000,0000 different references to Boston Beans. Apparently the traditional recipe goes way back to the Pilgrims and baked beans with pork was one of the first tinned foods.

It was a favourite in the Wild West because the beans would keep for days. I have no idea whether that is true but it allows me to insert the following clip from the timeless classic, Blazing Saddles, here:

Whatever the history of beans, the best recipe I could find was from good old Delia (we love Delia in the UK – when in doubt about how to cook something she’ll know).

For what may or may not be a traditional take on Boston Beans you’ll need:

  • 1 lb dried haricot beans
  • 1 tsp English (what the hell this is supposed to be American) mustard powder
  • 2 tsb black treacle
  • 2 tsb soft dark brown sugar
  • Tomato purée
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Onion
  • Bay leaf
  • 12 oz belly of pork
  • Salt and pepper

I liked this recipe because instead of soaking your beans in water overnight you just slow cook them for hours. So as long as you start it off in the morning you can leave the creation cooking all day and its ready for the evening.

Here is Delia’s method (more or less):

Boil the beans in 3 pints of water for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave until the water has cooled.

Return to the heat and simmer for 45 mins, uncovered, until the bean skins burst when you lift them out of the water.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid, then top up to 1 pint with water.

Put the beans in a big pot with a lid and pre-heat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

Mix mustard powder with a bit of the bean liquid, together with the black treacle, brown sugar, tomato purée and crushed garlic, and pour this over the beans with the pint  of stock, s&p, sliced onion and a bay leaf.

Now cut slashes across the pork and bury the meat in the beans until only the rind is showing.

Then cover the pot and bake very slowly for about 6 hours (I did 8 my oven sucks).

During the last hour of cooking, take the lid off to allow the rind on the pork to crisp (Mine was black because I cheated and smothered it with treacle and mustard).

Keep stirring the beans during this last hour and if they get dry add more water.

Serve straight up or with bread.

Beans, beans, good for your heart,
The more you eat, the more you fart,
The more you fart, the more you eat,
The more you sit on the toilet seat!

35 thoughts on “If You’re British Boston Beans Taste a Whole Lot Better Than Boston Tea

  1. The recipe I use is quite different, and you might enjoy it for a different taste. It’s posted early on in my blog.

    Just as added info for you, if you soak your beans overnight, more of the indigestible carbohydrates (sugars) are released from the beans before eating them. This cuts down a LOT on the gas you get from them! Also adding just a touch of freshly ground ginger to the batch has been known to help as well :)

  2. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today! You are a riot ending your post with the beans poem…very funny! When I was young, my mom would serve us baked beans with SPAM, can you believe this? We all thought is was yummy back then:)

  3. LOLOL This reminded me of living in France and missing Hienz baked beans, I tried to make some – I must confess that my list of ingredients wasn’t as long as yours …. this looks FAB!

  4. During a brief residence in Maine many years ago I discovered baked beans (the real kind) were part of life. Several of my acquaintances cooked them in their kitchen wood stoves all day. They’re eaten at all meals up North, something we reserve for lunch and dinner only round here. No need to soak dry beans overnight. Just boil them for several minutes, turn off the heat and let them set covered for an hour. Then either drain the water and add fresh or use the same water, bring to simmer and let cook for 1-2 hours until skins break when you blow on them. Then proceed with your baked beans or other bean recipe. It is too hot round here to have the oven on all day. I like your description and photos – brings back memories.

      • Yes, it will reduce but not eliminate gas causing carbohydrates in beans – the oligosaccharides. We don’t have the enzymes to digest them, so we contribute to global warming instead. Discarding the soak water and using fresh water will reduce the gas producers.

  5. Hahaha, I turned on the vid and had to step away, but didn’t miss a beat.. er.. toot! I’ve been craving homemade beans, but haven’t ever seen them done like this. This looks so rich with the pork belly on top and baked!! Yum!!

  6. Looks amazing! That is one impressive pork slab you have in there. I bet that the beans tasted really, really, really good.

    We have the same ditty, but slightly different:

    Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart.
    The more you eat, the more you fart.
    The more you fart, the better you feel.
    Let’s have beans for every meal!

    Do you have that one too?

  7. LOL beans are embedded in the British way of life and yes are suppose to induce Blazing Saddles like effects, to the amusement of some people. Beans, as I’m led to belive, are a crop grown in the USA soley for the British market, we eat that many of them.

    As for myself its a simple beans on toast, beans and sausages, use to be beans and egg but thats off the menu now. I somtimes add soy sauce, gives it a bit of flavour but as yet I have never eaten them cold, no siree they must be cooked, long live the humble baked bean. :)

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