The History of Baked Beans
People around the globe enjoy baked beans. Just about every culture has their version of a stewed or baked bean dish. Usually, the recipe involves slow cooking the beans in a special sauce with meat or fat added for flavor. Whether it is the French cassoulet, Cuban black beans, Boston Brown Beans, or Mexican Borracho beans, humans have been cooking up this pot for centuries. And, while many hotly contest the origins, or which recipe is best, we know one thing for certain. Baked beans are the perfect side dish for delicious BBQ. So, we ask you to pull up a chair and indulge us as we retell our version of the History of Baked Beans.
One of our favorite interpretations of “American” Baked Beans originates back to Native American tribes, particularly the Iroquois, Narragansett, Penobscot and other eastern tribes. Their method involved taking soaked native or “navy” beans, mix them with bear fat (yes, bear fat) and maple syrup, then slow cook them in earthen, or deer-skin pots hung over a fire.
The early Pilgrims, who were Puritan Christians did not allow for working on Sunday, the Sabbath. Most of them spent the entire day in Church, which was usually a drafty and cold building, especially in the winter. No work on Sunday meant no cooking, therefore, no hot meal at the end of the day. Legend has it that these folks would prepare the beans on Saturday, and keep them in the warm wood oven until Sunday. Therefore, giving churchgoers a hearty meal when they returned.
So, what about the Boston Connection? Well, some say that since Boston became a center in the Americas for Rum production, molasses being a byproduct, was plentiful. And, molasses soon became a sweetener of choice. It was added to the recipe, along with salted pork, and voila! The famous Boston Baked Bean recipe was born. Boston Brown Bread often accompanies the beans. It is bread traditionally made with cornmeal and molasses, and steamed in a hot water bath. A delicious pairing!
Great Boston Molasses Disaster
There is even a story about a famous molasses tank explosion in 1919. No history of baked beans would be complete without it! Apparently one of the Purity Distilling Company’s tanks exploded near Boston’s Inner Harbor. Reports say that a tidal wave of 12,000 tons of sticky, thick, brown molasses gushed from a fractured 2-story tank, crushed buildings, killed 21 people and injured another 150. Residents, even today, say on a hot day, they can still smell molasses.
Well, hopefully, you got a kick out of our little History of Baked Beans. It gave us a chuckle researching the background to America’s favorite “musical fruit.” And, whether you like your baked beans slow cooked with brown sugar, molasses, or honey, there is no doubt they are delicious with BBQ. At Chad’s we make our beans from scratch, never from a can. Come on in today and order up something tasty and don’t forget to add a side of baked beans! You’ll be glad ya did!