How to Cook Baked Beans the French Acadian Way
In southwestern Nova Scotia, French Acadians have been making simmering pots of homemade baked beans for centuries. Traditionally, beans were cooked and served every Saturday night, usually with a loaf of homemade brown bread and butter. Winters in Nova Scotia tend to be long, dark, and cold. A steaming pot of baked beans is the perfect food to warm the body and soul.
French Acadians along the south shore of Nova Scotia typically had wood stoves which also served as a source of heat for the home. Even today there are many homes that use wood stoves for cooking. For residents looking to make the best use of the time and money, letting a pot of homemade baked beans simmer in the oven all day made perfect sense. Not only would there be a hearty meal on the table, the house would fill with the warm of the oven.
It takes time and patience to cook a pot of baked beans from scratch, but it is well worth the effort. To get started, you will need:
• One standard package of beans (kidney beans work best).
• A pot large enough to cover the beans with water.
• ¼ cup of molasses (more to taste if you’d like)
• A few cubes of pork fat (ask the butcher or meat cutter at your local grocery store where to find this)
• ¾ cup of packed brown sugar
• salt and pepper (pinch of each)
• one onion (whole)
• 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
• 1 tablespoon of ketchup
The night before you want to cook the beans, add them to the pot and cover the beans with water. Let the beans soak overnight. In the morning, simply turn the burner on and allow the beans to come to a boil. It will take about 40 minutes for the beans to soften, but check them regularly. Ideally, you want the beans to easily break in half with a fork without being too mushy.
Once the beans are cooked, pour them into a big roasting pan. If a lot of the water has evaporated you can add a little more. Peel the onion and place directly in the pan. Add the brown sugar, molasses, pork fat, dry mustard, ketchup, and salt and pepper. Stir.
Cover the pan and place in the oven on low (300 degrees approximately). Let simmer for four or five hours.
Take a few minutes to run to the bakery before the beans are done. You’ll want a fresh loaf of brown bread and better to make this dish truly traditional.
IMPORTANT! You’ll need to keep checking the pan and adding water so that the beans don’t dry out. About half-way through the cooking process, you can remove the onion from the pan and discard. One half hour before you’re going to take the pan out of the oven, remove the lid and let simmer a little longer. This will help thicken the juices.
It seems like a lot of work, but the taste and quality of your homemade beans will make you wonder why you ever ate them out of a can.
SOURCE: Lisa is a French Acadian living in southwestern Nova Scotia and has many years' experience baking homemade beans from scratch.