Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cooking Sundays: Cooking to Knit/Veg Out By - Yankee Bean Suppah!

Now that the wood stoves and fireplaces are beginning to warm up hearth and home around Old New England, I thought for my Sunday Cooking to Knit By meal this week could be one near and dear to many a New Englander's heart - Ham, Beans and Baked Brown Bread.

This curious combination - actually curious only to those outside the Original 13 Colony States - is one that has been a staple among church suppers here. Chances were, that if you were in New England on a Saturday night over the years, you would be attending a church supper.

Saturday night community suppers come from a centuries-old tradition that, if you believe in legends, may have had its origins in the idea that Pilgrims cooked baked beans and brown bread (I'll come to this in a minute) so they would not have to work on the sabbath. Truth be known, it was more than likely because beans of all sorts were available straight from New England soil. They were plentiful, filling and best of all, cheap.

First off: Oven-baked ham - the easiest thing to do is find a spiral-cut ham at your grocery store and follow the directions. Or use your own slow-cooked ham recipe. Then you can concentrate on the beans and the bread - which give this supper its true New England flavor.

The brown bread recipe I've included is easy, tasty and just unusual enough to try ONCE, at least. But, if you can find it, Boston Baked Brown Bread in the can from the grocery store, or gourmet food emporium, can be just as delicious.

Voila - New England Ham, Baked Bean and Brown Bread SUPPAH

Baked Ham - Your choice of slow-cooked recipe

New England Style Baked Beans
Serves 6-8
This recipe has one somewhat unusual ingredient for beans - rum, just a Tbs.
If you have a chance to buy a genuine Boston Beanpot, do so. Beans always taste better cooked in the bean pot!

1 lb. dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
1 medium yellow onion, ends trimmed, peeled and left whole
4 whole cloves
8 oz. slab bacon or salt pork, trimmed and cut into 2"x14" pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. maple syrup
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. dark rum
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring beans and 10 cups of water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the saucepan with lid, and let the beans sit for 1 1/2 hours. (This "quick soak" produces effects similar to those achieved by soaking the beans in water overnight.) Drain the beans in a colander, and discard the cooking liquid.

2. Heat oven to 250 degrees. Sutd the onion with the cloves and place in a 4-qt. dutch oven along with the beans, bacon, maple syrup, molasses, dry mustard, and 3 cups boiling water: stir to combine. Cover pot with lid, and place in oven; cook, lifting lid and stirring occasionally, for 3 hours. Stir in ketchup and vinegar. Cover with lid again, and return to oven; cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze, about 3 hours more.

3. Stir in rum; season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls; serve with brown bread, if you like.

Boston Brown Bread

1 cup rye flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup graham flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3/4 cup molasses
2 cups sour milk (you can do this by adding 1 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice for each cup of milk, stir and let sit 10 - 15 mins., the milk should be starting to curdle slightly, and it's ready to use in the recipe)
1 cup raisins

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Dissolve soda in small amount of water, stir into molasses. Combine with sour milk, then mix into dry ingredients. Flour the raisins and add to batter. Mix thoroughly, pour into 2 greased molds filling 2/3rds to the top. (Old baking powder cans used to be the standard molds. Now most people use 1 pound coffee cans with aluminum foil for the top held tightly by thick rubber bands or greased lidded molds.) The cover should be high-fitting, and should be buttered before being placed on the mold. It should then be tied down with string so the the bread will not force off the cover as it rises. Place molds on a rack in a kettle containing boiling water which comes halfway up around the molds. Cover and steam for 3 hours, adding more boiling water if needed. Use a string to slice the brown bread. Slices slathered in butter taste the best, lol.

And, as Boston Proper Julia Childs always said, "Bon Appetit!"

Google Doodle for Julia's 100th Birthday

Have a Tasty One. :)


  1. Nice idea and great background info for those who aren't aware of how the Church Suppa got it's start. Thanks for reminding me of the baked beans bread, I had forgotten about it.

  2. Oh, thank you so much for this post! It really brought me back to my childhood. I haven't had brown bread or "real" beans in ages. Now that my kids are older and are willing to eat beans, maybe I should give these recipes a try! Thank you again!

  3. Lilea,thanks for stopping by. I think the best part of making good old Boston Baked Beans, excuse me for being a little silly, is watching the little brown beanpots in the oven cooking away... and the aroma? It won't disappoint!