(Recipe) My Mother’s Saturday Night Homemade Baked Beans

Beans good for homemade baked beans

Yellow-eyed beans, uncooked

Intro: I promised the recipe for my mother’s homemade baked beans. Here it is. Now, if your family’s recipe is better, we all want to know.

Enjoy.

Amount: Makes enough for a six-cup bean pot.

2 cups beans.

My mother used to say that yellow-eyed beans were best.  But she could never get them out West, so she used navy beans (also traditional) or a mixture of navy, kidney, and pinto beans (not traditional at all, but good).

If you want to use a full pound of beans, which is just a little more than 2 cups, no problem.  I use less because my bean pot isn’t big enough to hold that much.

1/2 cup molasses.

Not blackstrap.  You want the label to say “fancy” or “mild.” Mom liked Crosby’s Fancy Molasses.  In the States, if I can’t find Crosby’s, I use Grandma’s or Brer Rabbit. All are just fine.

You could substitute pure maple syrup. In fact, amber maple syrup is wonderful in beans. It’s just darned expensive.

Don’t substitute maple-flavored pancake syrup.

Some people add a little brown sugar too. I have no idea why.

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Look for mustard powder in the spice section of your supermarket. I like Colman’s mustard–just because the yellow metal tin is charming. Mustard lasts forever. If you mix it with water, you can make blazingly hot mustard, good for egg rolls.

1 small, whole onion, peeled

4 ounces salt pork.

Your supermarket probably stocks this, even if you’ve never noticed it there before. Here in Saratoga, I buy it in a 12 ounce package, good for 3 pots of beans. It keeps forever in the fridge, which is good, because I don’t make beans often.

In my opinion, neither the salt pork nor the onion tastes good cooked in beans. But they contribute greatly to the flavor of the beans, and they are definitely traditional. You could substitute bacon, but remember, it won’t get crisp cooking in a pot of beans. In my vegetarian phases, I have substituted a stick of butter, which is delicious.

1/4 cup ketchup, optional

My mother felt daring when she added ketchup. She felt it was her own idea though I’ve seen quite a few old recipes that include it. (Sorry, Mom.)

Some old recipes suggest a pinch of baking soda to make the beans softer, quicker. But I’ve read that it destroys nutrients, and you don’t really need it

Method

Beans are not a last minute affair.  Ideally you’ll start the evening before although you can begin early in the morning that you want to serve them. I’ll explain how below.

  1. Spread the beans on a light-colored plate or tray, a handful at a time, to look for & discard stones, stems, or damaged beans. Cover the beans with water.  Throw away anything that floats. Swish the beans around to get them clean. Drain.
  2. Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. (If you forget that, put them in a pot, add water to cover by 3 or 4 inches, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let them sit for an hour.)
  3. Drain and rinse.
  4. Put them in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil, and simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. In the bottom of the bean pot, put onion and the salt pork. I cut into the pork down to the rind in two or three places.  Add the beans, salt and pepper, molasses, mustard, and ketchup (if you’re using it).
  6. The beans should be covered by about 1/4” to 1/2” of water. If it’s not, add a little boiling water. Put the lid on.
  7. Put in a 300℉ oven. Cook about 8 hours. Every hour or two, check the water level. If the beans are not covered with liquid, add a little boiling water. Don’t add any liquid in the last half hour or so.  You want the liquid to get dark and thick. By the time you serve the beans, they should be just barely covered with liquid.

You can cook beans in a crock pot or a covered casserole instead of a bean pot, but the beans may not be quite as dark and delicious.

The water will evaporate quicker in a casserole; you’ll have to keep a sharp eye on it. It  will evaporate more slowly in a crock pot. Be careful not to add too much liquid.

Beans freeze beautifully.

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18 thoughts on “(Recipe) My Mother’s Saturday Night Homemade Baked Beans

    • I grew up in N.S. and my foster parents had baked yellow eyed beans in molasses sauce every Saturday night, I have had many other kinds since then but none compare for taste in a baked bean dish

      • Amazing how many people have beans on Saturday night. Even here in upstate New York, if I tell the story about my mother’s beans, several people in the audience will tell me their stories about beans.

  1. Hi Susan. Yellow-eyed beans are still hard to find. The ones I buy come from Maine (not far at all from the family potato farm in NB.)

  2. My dad always made his Saturday night beans with yellow-eyes that he grew himself here in Maine. He and Mom now live in Florida and can’t seem to find them anywhere. Every summer I plant a good sized garden with a healthy crop of these wonderful beans (so EASY to grow) for myself and to send to Mom & Dad. It has become a great family tradition which we love!

  3. Jill, what a lovely story! I’ve never tried to grow them myself, but maybe next year. I wonder if they’ll grow as well in upstate New York as they do in Maine.

  4. when you leave the beans to soak overnight and the following day you rinse them and then add fresh water and bring them to a boil, do you drain the beans before you put them in the oven with the rest of the ingrediences and then add water to cover the beans i am very mixed up please help me. thank you

    • Don’t worry too much about exactly how you do this. The recipe is flexible.
      First, beans tend to be hard, so it really helps to soak them over night. Drain them and throw that soaking water away. Some people say that the beans aren’t so gassy when you throw the liquid away.
      Then, try this variation so your beans don’t get too soft. Put the onion and salt pork in the bottom of the pot. Add the drained beans and all the other ingredients: dry mustard, salt, etc. Then just barely cover the beans with boiling water and put the lid on. (Add a little boiling water, stir a bit, add more until the beans are just covered.)
      It really makes a difference using a bean pot. I’ve done them in a casserole (tend to dry out if you’re not careful) and in a crock pot (tend to be too OK but soupy). I definitely get better results with an old-fashioned bean pot, but I don’t know if I’d buy one if I wasn’t pretty committed to baked beans. The beans get darker; the sauce gets richer looking; it’s easier to control the amount of liquid. While they’re cooking, you’re going to have to check them every hour or two. If the beans are looking dry, cover with a little boiling water. Not too much. You want to keep the liquid just over the top of the beans.
      Don’t add any water in the last hour or so of cooking. It won’t have time to blend into a nice sauce.
      Hope this helps. Good luck.
      Margaret

      • I live in NB and have cooked yellow eyed beans( and brown bread with raisins of course!) hundreds of times. I also add about 1/4 cup ketchup to my recipe and bacon. They are delicious!!

  5. Thanks for the recipe, Margaret. I usually use the recipe on the back of the bag of beans…..no problem getting yellow eye beans and Crosbys molasses in NB. I’ll keep the bag though…..I think it will be a good bean casserole recipe. We always send Crosbys molasses and King Cole King with my Dad to Florida because he can’t get either down there. The things we take for granted. Have a wonderful day.

  6. Pingback: Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans (with European Soldier Beans) « the taste space – steam, bake, boil, shake!

      • Yellow-eyed beans are often hard to find. Have you tried searching online? My mother was never able to find yellow-eyed beans in western Canada. She fussed about it, but substituted what she could get. Actually, she often used a mixture of navy beans, pinto beans, even kidney beans.

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