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A Summer Staple ~ Boston Baked Beans!

Homemade baked beans were a staple in my childhood home. Not “baked” beans out of a can, but dried beans that were added to an old-fashioned brown pot with Mom’s favorite enhancements, and slowly baked for hours until the beans were soft to the tooth and the juices in the pot ran thick and rich and brown-sugary.

My brothers and I would fight over the small bits of crispy salt pork that mysteriously rose to the top of the pot during baking, and we fought over the small pieces of onion that stayed down at the bottom, but most of all we fought over who would have the last bit of scrapings from around the sides of the pot when there were absolutely no beans to be had.

This definitive “one-pot-dish” is a meal on its own, with the customary Boston brown bread on the side and a garnish of piccalilli – a relish of pickled vegetables, also known as chow-chow in Pennsylvania and parts of the south.

What are Boston Baked Beans? The short answer is that they’re small white beans (usually navy beans), slow-cooked in an oven, hearth, or ember-filled hole in the ground with molasses, salt pork, black pepper, and maybe a touch of mustard and onion until they form a thick stew, rich with a deep color and caramelized crust.

Beans, and baked beans in particular, have been a staple throughout New England since the time of the Pilgrims, not to mention in the rest of the colonies and the world beyond. In Tuscany, they eat fagioli al fiasco; in Languedoc, it’s cassoulet; in Portugal and its former colonies, feijoada. And yet, somehow, Boston got singled out with the nickname “Beantown” for its love of the local version of the dish. (Although, to be fair, one Italian nickname for a Tuscan is mangiafagioli, or “bean-eater,” so there’s that.)

I’ve become something of a fan of cooking with Dr. Pepper. I know it sounds strange but after I made this Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork I became a convert. I use the pork for tacos, tostadas, nachos, even on pizza. Not to mention pulled pork sliders 🙂 So when I came across this recipe for Dr. Pepper Baked Beans, I just had to give it a whirl.

These Dr. Pepper Baked Beans are a sweet and delicious side dish that’s ready in less than an hour! Perfect for BBQ’s and game day parties!

“And this is good old Boston / The home of the bean and the cod.”
~ John Collins Bossidy

Maple Bundt Cake Photo