Posted on April 8, 2024 | by in Uncategorized

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Baked Bean Nation

Baked beans are a timeless dish in America and were enjoyed long before the Pilgrims reached the eastern shores. The Narragansett, Penobscot and Iroquois Native Americans were the first to indulge in iconic baked beans. Their original creation involved soaking navy beans and cooking them low and slow overnight in a grounded clay pot lined with stones. They complemented the beans with bits of deer fat (some legends claim it was bear fat), onion, and maple syrup, a critical ingredient introduced by the Iroquois.

After centuries of enjoying pots of this American favorite, regions across the nation developed their own takes on baked beans with diverse flavors, textures and components. Here’s a quick overview of the different styles and preferences of this summer staple that’s as customizable as it is delicious.

Yankee-Style/Boston Baked Beans
Nicknamed “Beantown,” Boston is passionate about their baked beans that carry a deep-rooted history. The colonists who settled in the area were the first to be introduced to Native American baked beans and later adapted their own variation. Typically made with navy beans (the official state bean of Massachusetts), maple syrup and molasses, Boston baked beans became a comforting, traditional Sunday meal for early religious settlers. Since they observed the Sabbath and didn’t work or cook on Sundays, they prepared their beans on Saturdays, allowing the beans to simmer overnight until they returned from church on Sunday. This practice lasted until the early 20th century.

In Texas, barbeque fare is a way of life, and baked beans mean serious business. Texas-style baked beans are sometimes referred to as cowboy baked beans. Whether it’s green chiles, hot peppers, jalapeños or hot sauce, the addition of spice and heat makes Texas-style distinct from the rest. The hearty texture and nutty taste of pinto beans should soak low and slow to fuse with the spicy elements and a sweet barbeque sauce. Additional components like the savory flavors of salt pork and sweet brown sugar take this tangy variety to the next level.

Rich and savory, baked beans from the southeastern U.S. typically contain a combination of ketchup, barbeque sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Thick, crisp bacon paired with brown sugar impart southern charm and sweet, smoky tastes to this variety. Some southern-style versions also add Creole seasoning (a style of cooking originating in Louisiana) to impart an elevated herbal flavor into their beans. Others may incorporate Cajun seasoning for a spicy, savory blend that will kick the flavor up a notch.