Last Saturday, we invited Hawkins’ parents Randal and Laura, and his friend Aaron Cox to stop by for a barbecue. I made ribs, the way my grandfather showed me how, while using my gran’s sauce. I did change a few things, but nothing to warrant an entirely new column. Just some fine-tuning, I suppose you could say.
That afternoon, I pondered the dinner and decided to do something different. Rather than open a can of baked beans and doctor them up a little bit, I decided to make them from scratch. I asked one of my very best friends ever, Liz Dulude, if she had a recipe for me to use, as she is a native of Massachusetts. She said that she usually opens a can and doctors it up, and never made Boston baked beans from scratch.
I did some research and came up with a recipe that I found easy and pleasing. During colonial times, Boston had ample molasses shipped in from the Caribbean to be made into rum. Some of that molasses found its way into pots of beans.
To start with, I washed a pound of navy beans and boiled it for 15 minutes in a five-quart pot. Once the boil was complete, I removed it from the heat and covered it for an hour. This softens the beans, and can take the place of an overnight soak.
Once the beans had softened, I put them in some fresh water with a teaspoon of garlic and a teaspoon of fresh black pepper and boiled them on medium to medium-high heat for an hour. It was a last minute idea to make them, so I wanted them to soften and cook quickly. Aaron tried his best to encourage me to boil them faster. Sorry to get a late start on them.
As the beans cook, I fried six rashers of good, thick country bacon in a skillet. Once it was crisp, I drained it out on a plate covered with paper towels and crumbled it. Into the bacon fat, I placed a large, diced red onion and a sliced carrot. Sautee the onions and carrots until the onions are again a good golden brown and the carrots soft.
When the onions are done, I combined a cup of light brown sugar with a half-cup of dark molasses and mixed it quickly with the onions. Add two tablespoons of mustard- I used a spicy brown mustard this time, a tablespoon of ketchup and a quarter cup of tomato juice, to make it red and hearty. For extra spice, I slipped in a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and an ounce of Canadian whisky. Stir everything well and add the bacon back into the sauce.
Drain the beans in a colander and pour them in a glass casserole dish with the sauce on top. Stir everything until it is well blended, and bake it in a 325-degree oven, covered, for 45 minutes. Once that time expires, remove the cover and bake it for an additional half hour to 45 minutes, ensuring the beans are tender.
Aaron said that he did not like beans with bacon, but everyone else seemed happy with it. I feel bad making him wait for something he did not want, but did not feel so bad to eat his brownies and pumpkin bread that we ate after our meal. The ribs were good, even though for so many people, I cooked quite a few, and the coleslaw was as always a creamy counterpoint to spicy ribs.
It was a nice evening for all of us. We enjoyed “Real Time” on television and a few other shows Hawkins saved for his parents. Good conversation abounded in the living room, and with the always excellent “Ribs a la Grandparents,” an unexpected treat of fresh baked beans, friends and family of friends, I think a good time was had by all. Good eating.