Baked beans were a staple when I was growing up. My mother made them anytime we had leftover ham. They are especially nice in the winter since they require long slow cooking. I decided to try the Baked Beans recipe submitted by Mrs. J. Treusch in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
According to the Canadian census there are two married men in Berlin Ontario with the surname Treusch and the first initial J . . . and both are called John! One John age 34 is married to 37 year old Mary G. and they have two sons and a daughter and Mary’s single sister Lizzie Weisberber (seamstress) lives with them too. The elder son 16 years of age is listed as a stove hand while his father is a machine hand. They are all Lutherans and born in Ontario. The other John age 52 was born in Germany, came to Canada in 1867 and is a painter. He is also married to a Mary but she is 47 and was born in Germany. She came to Canada when she was just a year old in 1854. They have two sons, one a machinist and the other a wood carver. This family is also Lutheran. I wonder which of these two women submitted the recipe for Baked Beans. Their families are so similar and this recipe would help fill up those hard working men.
I soaked one cup of navy beans overnight and drained the water as the recipe indicated. I boiled them in fresh water for about an hour until they were almost done. I had to add water more than once even with a lid on the pot. I don’t have the classic bean pot but I do have several casserole dishes with lids. I put the beans, molasses and about a teaspoon of dry mustard in the dish and stirred. I didn’t have any pickled pork so I used a piece of the smoked bacon and sprinkled some pepper in as suggested. From this point I had to guess. I assumed the beans were to be baked so I put the dish in the oven at 300 degrees F. and started checking the consistency of the beans every 30 minutes. This is where personal taste comes into cooking. I don’t like really dark beans and I don’t like them too mushy so I took everything out after an hour since they were starting to get dark and dry.
These weren’t the best baked beans I’ve ever had and they weren’t the worst either. The flavour was good but the texture was not quite right. I should have cooked the beans longer on top of the stove. That bit of crunch was still there even after an hour in the oven. I’m not sure if the pickled pork would result in a different flavour but I liked the addition of smoked bacon. There are a huge number of variations when it comes to baked beans. Some have onion and some are tomato based. This is close to the way my mother made hers although she used a slow cooker/crock pot instead of the oven. That way they could be made in the summer without heating up the house. I think this 1906 recipe is a good starting point for a modern cook. And my house now smells wonderful on this cold afternoon.
1 cup beans, 1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar, a piece of pickled pork: soak the beans over night, in the morning pour off the water, cover with fresh water and boil till tender, then stir in the molasses, put in a pot, bury the pork in them, mustard and pepper to taste.