This is my second attempt at Boston Baked Beans, the first was a bit too strong in the molasses department but after being left to mature and frozen for a while it made great camping food. This time I have made enough to last, when frozen, for ages. It takes soooo long to make that it is not something that I wish to repeat often, but because it is so much better than the tinned variety, it’s good to have  afew servings in the freezer. Cooking beans is a bit like giving birth, you don’t remember how long it actually takes until you start the next time.

It’s not such a concentrated effort, just a long time to hang around the kitchen. This is probably exacerbated by my doing part of it in the pressure cooker and I definitely don’t leave the kitchen with that on the boil.

Boston Baked Beans

(or something akin to it)

Serves about 16 or enough for dinner and a fair bit to freeze

Preparing the Beans:

1 kg borlotti beans, spread out on a tray and picked over for odd ones or stones etc, rinsed well and left to soak in a large bowl (cover with water by at least 4 cm, they should double in volume) for a minimum of 4 hours – the beans get wrinkles when done, rinse again when ready to use and drain.

Leaving them to soak overnight won’t hurt. Other types of beans can be used.

Stock for Boiling the Beans:

Make this stock to boil the beans in – gets the flavour into the beans and tastes so good that remaining stock can be kept for the next soup being made – I used it for pea and ham soup. Don’t add salt or acid to the stock as they slow the beans absorbtion of the liquid.

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 8 cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 carrot chopped into a few pieces
  • couple of celery stalks chopped
  • 1 ham hock (about 700g) (if not using ham hock add some oil to stop excessive foaming when using the pressure cooker to cook the beans)
  • 4 cloves garlic

Put all the ingredients into the pressure cooker and bring to the boil. Pressure cook for 20 minutes and quick release. Remove the hock and set aside to cool, strain off the vegetables and herbs and return the stock to the pan.

Add the drained beans to the stock, adding water to ensure that the beans are covered, but that the liquid doesn’t come more than half way up the pressure cooker. Cook under pressure for 20 minutes (start timing when the cooker has reached pressure). Quick release when the time is up. Strain off the stock and reserve.

When cool enough remove all the meat from the hocks and set aside.

Cooking the Beans and Sauce

This is where you can add some of the salt, tomato and other flavours. It takes about 4  hours to cook. The liquid will have turned thick and dark and gooey when it is done.

  • 2 large tins of chopped tomatoes (add an extra smaller tin if necessary for taste)
  • 3 large onions chopped into chunks
  • 1 chorizo sausage, skinned and broken up
  • the meat from the ham hock shredded
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup grain mustard (I used a mix of dijon and grain, simply because I ran out of grain mustard)
  • 1/2 cup tamari or less of light soy sauce
  • 1/4 worcesteshire sauce
  • a few shakes of Tabasco or Piri Piri sauce or 1 tsp chilli flakes (adjust to your preferred level of heat)
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • Vegetta or other stock powder to taste
  • good grind of pepper

Put the honey, mustard, soy and molasses into a small bowl and stir to combine. Add a little of the reserved stock to thin it out a bit.

Add all of the ingredients to a large oven proof pan (a large baking dish or a deep sided pot). Add enough of the retained stock to cover the beans by a cm or so.

Cover and cook in the oven for an hour at 150°C. Remove the cover, stir  and continue to cook for another 3 hours at 180°C. Check and stir every half hour or so. When most of the liquid has been absorbed and is thickened and dark it is done.

Goes well reheated in a camp oven and served with sausages and damper around an open fire. We have a fire pit surrounded by logs that is great for entertaining.

Regular meals around the fire involve something that is one pan, pre-cooked and can be eaten with a minimum of cutlery. It’s all about the atmosphere, the friends and the conversation, so relaxing.


A vegetarian version – no ham hocks, extra onion. This one was made with navy beans


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