The January winds are howling, the mercury is huddled under the zero degree mark and the last of the turkey leftovers have been souped, sandwiched and a la kinged. It is time to bring out our favorite cooking vessel for a pottage of beans, the Dutch oven. Put the oven on, maybe for most of the day, warm up the kitchen and make a big batch of molasses baked beans with Maritime molasses and oatmeal bread.
The olfactory combination of a pot of slow cooked beans and baking bread is second to none, especially in the dark of winter.
For those of you that have roots in the maritime provinces, the aroma will have you close to weeping, especially if you have spent the day skiing, tobogganing, or shoveling snow. Which certainly won’t be the case in Toronto so far this winter, but nonetheless this classic Canadian supper, economical, healthy, and delicious, of beans & bread will warm you from the inside out. Nothing fancy, but for many of us, nothing beats it.
This down home dinner is best served with a pint of beer, we recommend a hearty winter beer such as Muskoka’s Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, or a glass of ice-cold Harmony Organic milk. Like many one-pot dinners, baked beans are even better the following day, served with bacon and eggs, home fries, hot coffee and thick slices of your delicious Maritime bread hot out of the toaster, slathered with butter.
Maritime Molasses-Baked Beans
1 lb dry navy beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 can tomato paste
¾ cups blackstrap molasses
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
salt pork, or 4 ounces thick slab bacon
1 bottle of beer
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1) Rinse beans and soak in water over night
2) The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Place beans in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes
3) Drain and rinse beans, reserving 2 cups of liquid
4) Mix molasses, 2 cups reserved liquid, beer, onion, ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, mustard, salt and pepper
5) Put beans in Dutch oven and cover with mix. Add any reserved liquid to just cover beans.
6) Lay bacon or salt pork on top of beans
7) Place covered Dutch oven in pre-heated 300 F oven
8) Bake for 4-5 hours or until beans are tender and dark. Note that this may be a matter of taste; some prefer their beansquite soft, others prefer them more al dente. Remove lid of Dutch oven for last 2 hours of cooking adding any liquid as needed to keep beans from drying out.
Old Fashioned Molasses Bread
makes 3 large loaves
This bread was a staple in our family growing up, made every week during the winter. Since there was always some leftover porridge or Red River Cereal in the pot every morning, this got mixed with molasses and thrown into Mom’s basic brown bread recipe, often with left over sweet potato.
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tsp sugar dissolved in 1 cup warm water, to proof yeast
1-2 cups of cooked porridge or Red River Cereal
1 sweet potato, grated or mashed
½ c molasses
6 or 7 cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup sunflower seeds
1) Proof yeast in warm sugar water
2) In very large bowl, mix egg, molasses, sweet potato, salt, butter, cooled porridge
3) Add yeast to mix
4) Add flour, I cup at a time, mixing with spoon until you have to mix it by hand
5) Turn out contents of bowl onto floured counter and knead, adding flour as you go, a small handful at a time. Add sunflower seeds and continue needing until dough is well worked, about 10 minutes; dough should be tacky but not overly sticky
6) Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and put in a warm area. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
7) Heat oven to 400 F. Punch down dough (sponge). Shape into loaves, place in buttered loaf pans and let rise, about 45 min-1 hr.
8) Bake in middle rack for 15 minutes at 400. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
9) Remove bread from pans and cool on wire rack. For a soft crust, brush loaves with butter while they cool.
Note: If your beans are in the oven while you are preparing bread, you can remove them and place on a low heat burner while the bread bakes, then return beans to oven at 300 while the bread cools and the beer chills.