Beantown, Baseball, and an Accent of German
The event known as the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World site of Massachusetts, which lasted for three days. Now that’s a feast for a My Girlfriendships® crew if we ever knew one!
Boston is often referred to as “Beantown” in reference to the popular dish. Why beantown? Here are a few reasons:
- From 1883 - 1906 the Boston’s National League baseball team was known as the Boston Beaneaters.
- Native Americans had made corn bread and baked beans, and the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony learned these recipes in the early 1620s (and likely added barley to the cornmeal to invent New England brown bread.)
- Brown bread and baked beans, along with frankfurters continue to be a popular Saturday night staple throughout the region.
- In the 18th century, Boston was an exporter of rum, which is produced by the distillation of fermented molasses. Molasses was added to local baked bean recipes, creating Boston baked beans.
- In colonial New England, baked beans were traditionally cooked on Saturdays and left in brick ovens overnight. On Sundays, the beans were still hot, allowing people to indulge in a hot meal and still comply with Sabbath restrictions.
For the foodie in the My Girlfriendships® crew, this is her assignment with the crew as sous chef.
Ingredients for 10 | Multiply by degree of hunger, divide by number of girlfriends!
*It’s not as daunting as it seems. Soaking the beans is the prep time. Easy!
- 2 pounds dried pinto or navy beans
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 4 canned plum tomatoes, seeded and crushed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion (about 1 pound), peeled, halved
- 12 whole cloves
- 12 ounces salt pork
Soak the beans in cold water overnight in a large container. Drain in a colander.
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
In a small saucepan, combine molasses, mustard, brown sugar, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and 5 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
Stud the onion halves with the cloves, and place in the bottom of a terra-cotta bean pot or Dutch oven.
Score the salt pork 1/4 inch deep 1 inch apart, and slice into two even pieces. Transfer to the bean pot.
Add the soaked beans. Pour the molasses mixture over beans, stir, and cover. The liquid should cover the beans by 1/2 inch. Add more water if necessary.
Transfer to oven to bake, without stirring, until the beans are tender and the liquid has thickened, about 6 hours.
Check the beans every 45 minutes, adding more hot water if necessary to keep beans slightly soupy at all times.
For the last 50 - 60 minutes of cooking, uncover beans. Using tongs or a long fork, pull the pork to the surface. Remove from oven, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve.
Soak the beans the night before you cook them. The next day, begin cooking seven hours before you plan to eat. Beans cooked in a six-quart terra-cotta bean pot have a richer flavor and finer texture, but you can also use a cast-iron Dutch oven.
Looking for a place to gather with girlfriends for lunch or dinner? Here are a couple of great options when visiting Boston or Springfield with your girlfriends:
- Neptune Oyster, Boston | These are the reviews in popular food publications for Neptune Oyster. Need we say more about why this is a definite stop on our Boston girlfriendships® trip?
“Anyone can find a respectable mayo-drenched lobster roll or adequately clammy clam chowder in these parts. But for something truly memorable, you’ll need to head to the always packed Neptune Oyster for the johnnycake.”— Bon Appétit
“Order it hot with butter, or cold with mayo. Either way, sizable chunks of lobster will overflow the warm brioche roll, leaving you to dig in with a fork before attempting to pick up any stragglers with your hands.”— Boston Magazine
“Small but charming North End raw bar that obsesses over fresh oysters and lobster rolls.”— Condé Nast Traveler
- The Student Prince Cafe and Fort, Springfield | Though the German-American community is just a fraction of Springfield's population, its social and cultural influence is far-reaching. The Student Prince, a Springfield landmark since 1935, is an example of that. Back then, it was just the bar and booth area with about 20 beer steins on the wall. Fast forward to 1961 when a young gentleman named Rupprecht Schand turned the restaurant into a local institution, and the 20-stein collection grew to be one of the largest in the United States.
So, partaking in the German-American culture, we’ll be having the Rupprecht’s Classic Bratwurst House Made Pork and Veal Sausage, Spices. Köstlich (that’s “delicious” for us non-German speaking girlfriends).
Massachusetts sure knows how to feed our friends, doesn’t it?
Recipe and Photo sources: