Memere was quite the French Canadian chef.
From her tiny little kitchen, she produced countless warm graham cracker pies. Fluffy banana cream pies that made your tastebuds melt—absolutely melt. Deep, chocolatey fudge that made you close your eyes and dream only in chocolate.
It’s funny, because despite all of those things, whenever I think of Memere’s kitchen, I think of baked beans.
Memere and I had a lot of similar tastes when it came to food. One of them being that we both loved baked beans. Especially when smeered over puffy white pancakes.
(I always liked the fact that Memere would serve me pancakes and beans for breakfast. I loved that this was totally normal. Just your typical, standard ol’ breakfast fare.)
It was in February (or March?) of 2010 that I set out to make Memere a batch of beans. We were both sitting in her living room, watching Food Network, and discussing the seriousness of making the perfect batch of beans.
“You won’t put bacon in there, right? I don’t want bacon in my beans.” Memere would say this with such a disgusted look on her face, that I knew this was a very critical step. I scribbled it down on my notepad.
I’m pretty sure the menfolk would have liked the addition. The bacon, I mean. And I’m pretty sure that many baked bean connoisseurs and baked bean snobs (because I know they’re out there) would have thrown in some sort of pork or rind or bacon.
But I knew better than to argue with Memere. I just listened carefully to her instructions. I took notes: No bacon. Lots of molasses. A long, slow bake.
It was but an hour into preparing the beans, when I knew immediately that I must have forgotten something. Something important. The beans were done—completely finished!
I thought this was absolutely great. Memere sounded totally worried. “I don’t know,” she said. “Baked beans should take at least a couple of hours.”
After a quick, Memere-to-me, step by step discussion, I realized what I had done. The stovetop heat had been too high. The beans had become too soft. The flavors never even stood a chance of being able to meld and mix and mingle. They were, in a word, bland.
It was back to the drawing board. This time with further, more specific instructions from Memere.
As an aside, baking beans is a little like baking bread. You need a lot of patience. This isn’t always (ever?) easy.
The second time around, however, the results were baked bean perfection. The beans remained firm but tender. The molasses really shined through. The ingredients were baked together in a long, dreamy process.
And there was no bacon in sight.
I served us bowls of beans for lunch. Memere made us a loaf of her homemade bread and served me a thick slice covered in butter. After a couple of silent bites in, Memere approved with a bright smile and a sharp nod. And then we went on to discuss the serious matters of fashion, food, and Rachael Ray.
And that is why I always think of baked beans, whenever I think of Memere’s kitchen.
Boston Baked Beans
Serves about 4-5 main entrees
These beans are delicious a main entree, when served with a side salad and a whole grain cornbread. Or, try serving on the side of your favorite meal (poultry or tofu come to mind.) Better yet, serve over a plate of warm, puffy pancakes and eat them for breakfast. They freeze well and can be stored in single serve containers, and brought to work when you need a quick lunch.
(p.s. They’re also the perfection addition to a Super Bowl Buffet!)
If you like your beans with a kick, add some hot sauce to the sauce mixture. Enjoy! 😀
- 2 c. navy beans
1-2 onions, finely diced
3 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 c. ketchup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
Soak beans overnight in cold water. The next day, bring beans to a boil in the same water. Immediately bring heat to low and cook for approximately 1 to 2 hrs. Drain and reserve liquid.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish and top with onions.
In a saucepan, combine rest of ingredients, onions through brown sugar. Add hot sauce if desired. Bring mixture to a bowl and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of reserved bean water to cover the beans. Stir gently with rubber spatula and cover dish with lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 3 to 4 hrs in preheated oven. Stir at least every hour.
Question: Who or what are the cooking inspirations in your life? Bon Appetit magazine, Memere, Julia Childs (because she never cried over a few mistakes!) and Mollie Katzen.
Aw this is wonderful! I always wished I had grandparents to pass down family recipes to me…it must so neat to learn to learn tried-and-tested dishes like this.
I love the way you write your posts; they’re always a pleasure to read. 🙂
Thank you so much Jessy! 😀
Just popped a half batch into the oven! I can’t wait to try these!
Yay! Let me know how they turn out for you! 😀
Hmmmm, I need to try this recipe. I loved Memere’s baked beans! I’m not sure that I have a cooking role model, other than Memere. I do love Rachel Ray and her upbeat personality. (Memere couldn’t stand her, I remember. Ha, ha).
Haha…nope! Paula Deene, on the other hand…
I have never made baked beans. It sounds like this is a good recipe to start with! As for cooking inspirations, I would have to say my uncle, my grandpa, and all the food bloggers out there! I love that I can go to your blog or someone else’s and find a unique recipe, an opinion about that recipe, and a picture 🙂
looks a lot nicer than out of the tin defnitly worth a try at leat they wont just taste of sugar like they do when you get them out of tins
Yum! This sounds amazing! I love how there’s no bacon in there too (by strict Memere decree). I want to make these…maybe next weekend, when I can devote the slow cooking time.
How does Memere feel about a crock pot?
You know, she never really did *make* anything in a crock pot. But she did use it often for reheating or for family get togethers. 😀
How cute is this. I love it. My mom is one of my baking inspirations – and I love that she’s teaching my son to be active in the kitchen, too!
Beans look awesome – I love beans!
My memere passed in 1998, and I miss her gutons, fudge, graham cracker and ritzy caramel pies to this day. I wish I had gotten some of her recipes. We sat together and watched “the golf” on tv and ate her boozy frozen apricots that were key to her homemade apricot brandy.