Nova Scotia Baked Beans

One of my favorite childhood memories are the many Saturday nights at the family table with a big plate of sweet baked beans, fresh brown bread and hot dogs. Baked beans are one of my favorite foods and, since moving to Ontario, I haven’t made them as frequently as I would like.

Why not? Apparently the beans we always used for baking beans just aren’t available here in Ottawa — I can find obscure beans from far-flung parts of the world, but I just can’t get ahold of the Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier, Yellow Eye or French Horticultural beans that my mother used for her Saturday night feasts.

Every year during my annual trip back to the coast, I stock up on my beans and horde them like gold — doling out each batch and making them stretch for as long as I can, knowing I won’t be able to replenish my stockpile until the next summer. Our unexpected and unfortunate trip back in January was a boon in one very pleasant respect: I now have beans — lots and lots of beans!

Ingredients:

4 cups Jacob’s Cattle beans
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2.5 cups honey
1.5 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup fancy molasses

Soak beans overnight. Drain, add fresh water and parboil until beans are soft to the bite. Drain again and transfer beans to slow cooker or covered casserole dish. Add just enough eater to cover the beans. Preheat oven to 350F.

Add chopped onion, honey, ginger, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir well and cover. Bake for 1 hour and then add molasses. If thicker beans are preferred, mash beans slightly with potato masher. Stir well and bake for 1 hour longer.

NOTE: Do not add molasses until beans have reached desired softness. Adding the molasses too soon will prevent them from cooking properly!

These beans are fabulous with Maritime-style molasses brown bread or fresh Johnny Cake (cornbread), and they’re especially good as leftovers. :)

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Porridge Bread Recipe

Can't really have the recipe for beans with-out one for the bread. Proper porridge bread is almost impossible to purchase. I've made this recipe many times, and it compares very, very closely to an old country recipe. A recipe that I am constantly trying to wrestle out of somebody, and I will have someday, if it exists. Sometimes I think she makes this without a recipe at all...

3 cups water, boiling
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup shortening (49 grams)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast (4.5 tsps)
2/3 cup table molasses (I use 1 cup)
4 teaspoons salt (I cut the salt down to under 2 tsps)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour (if you increase molasses, you'll probably need a bit more flour)

Pour 3 cups boiling water Over 2 cups rolled oats 1/4 cup shortening. Stir until shortening melts and let stand for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water (100 F) Over this sprinkle 2 envelopes active dry yeast Let stand for 10 minutes.
Then stir briskly with a fork.

Stir into partially cooled rolled oat mixture 2/3 cup table molasses 4 teaspoons salt Cool to lukewarm.

Add softened yeast to the lukewarm rolled oat mixture. Stir Beat in 2-1/2 cups All Purpose flour. Beat vigorously by hand or with electric mixer.

Then gradually beat in with a spoon an additional 5-1/2 to 6 cups All Purpose flour Work in last of flour with a rotating motion of the hand.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should still be slightly sticky to the fingers. I find the best porridge bread to be good and moist.

Shape into a smooth ball and place in a greased bowl, rotating dough to grease surface. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1-1/2 hours). Keep in a warm place. Punch down and shape into 4 loaves.

Place in greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans, grease tops, cover and let rise again until doubled (about 1 hour). Bake in preheated 400F oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

I'm baking some of this as I type, and the aroma is off the chart.

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