Boston Baked Beans in a Crock and Hot

Boston Baked Beans
Boston Baked Beans
Photo by Wyatt Dowling

You would be surprised how appetizing a giant crock of hot beans can be in the middle of the summer. I was, at least, when my husband pressed me to try a spoonful of the beans he had been slow cooking for eight hours in our oven at a temperature that felt just slightly higher than that outside.

Ironically, I never ate Boston Baked Beans during my years living in, well, Beantown. I guess I could blame this fact on not possessing the proper cookware, but given the fact that I've been observed eating cereal out of a teacup and drinking chocolate milk out of a bowl, that explanation is pretty dubious.

Actually, I know it's because I sort of have an irrational prejudice against just eating beans by themselves as a "main dish." Incorporated into cold summer salads, tossed into burritos, and even baked into brownies, sure, that works. But beans front and center? Not so much.

There are a boatload of variations on Boston Baked Beans (this recipe is fairly standard). And while I can't disclose the exact nature of my husband's recipe (that's proprietary information), I can tell you that it involved pepper, brown sugar, molasses, tomato paste and black, rather than navy, beans. Also, quite a lot of salt pork.

What makes Boston Baked Beans amazingly palatable even in the summer months is their incredible texture. They are tender, just verging on mushy, but retain their shape and integrity (unlike, for example, refried beans), such that each individual legume bursts separately in your mouth. "Sweet" and "smoky" were the dominant flavors in my husband's baked beans; every few spoonfuls, however, I'd encounter a huge piece of pork fat with a few shards of meat clinging to it. Those intermittent intensely savory bites prevented the baked beans from becoming too saccharine and ultimately facilitated their success as an entrée rather than a side dish.

That being said, don't feel too much pressure to feast exclusively on baked beans should you or your significant other whip up a batch. I'm eating some of the leftovers with some frankfurters, poolside.

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