January was always the cruelest month when one grew up in Northern Saskatchewan. The excitement of Christmas still a warm memory, but January was a biting, bitter, angry cold that left you weeping. Freezing eye lashes together. Turning feet into numbing blocks of ice. A January cold that groaned and complained. A cold that split the ice on our outdoor rink into large cracks catching the blades of our skates and sending us tumbling into snowbanks. We loved it.
Night come early in the Far North. Darkness by four o’clock. Snow crunched with every step. The evening sky dazzled with a light show of a million stars. Scarf wrapped, double layers of hand knit mittens and socks, we waited. The Northern Lights lite up the sky with breath taking brilliant colours. They flashed, soared, danced filling our world with a show we never took for granted. Mittens were discarded. Hands clapped. We were absolutely certain we had the ability to make The Northern Lights dance to our applause. Then chilled to the bone hunger drove us home for supper.
Remembrances of things past. The crackle and smell of a wood burning wood stove. The small, warm kitchen filled with the comforting aroma of baked beans. Fresh bread lavished with butter. A childhood recollection of home. Marcel Proust wrote of the joys of madelines. For me it will always be baked beans. Fragrant beans simmering all day until the pork dissolved into a rich sauce and beans become tender bursts of flavour. This is the baked beans of my childhood. The remembrances of things past. This is not an exotic recipe. The ingredients are those of more than seventy years ago. Most important is – what is not in this Northern Saskatchewan recipe. No molasses. Ginger gives the beans a counter balance to the sweetness of the sugar.
Quoting Proust wrote “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom.” May you be happy with this simple recipe. May your January skies be filled with Northern Lights, and may you enjoy the simple pleasure of skating on an outdoor rink in the mysterious darkness of the night.
The preparation for OLD FASHIONED CANADIAN BAKED BEANS starts about 24 hours before you plan to serve it. You spend just a few minutes assembling the ingredients, and the rest of the times requires the beans to spend overnight soaking in water, and then most of the day quietly simmering away unattended in a slow oven. (275F)
Serving beans with grains like wheat, rice or corn makes it a completely protein. When you leave out the pork it makes a delicious vegetarian supper.
|OLD FASHIONED CANADIAN BAKED BEANS|| |
- 2½ cups (625 ml) dried navy or kidney beans, soaked overnight AND DRAINED.
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) brown sugar
- ¼ cup (70 ml) maple syrup
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) dry mustard
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) powdered ginger
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) fine sea salt
- Several good grinds of black pepper (to taste)
- 1 medium-sized onions stuck with 3-4 whole cloves
- 6 oz (175 g) fat salt pork, cut into 3-4 pieces
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- A splash of red wine vinegar if desired.
- Preheat oven to 275F (140C).
- Put the soaked beans in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them. Bring to boil and immediately drain them, saving the water.
- Transfer the beans to a 6 cup (1½ liter) bean pot or deep dish casserole.Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, ginger, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Peel the outer skin from the onion leaving the onion intact. Stick several cloves into the onion.
- Poke the onion down into the center of the beans.
- Push the pork down on top of the beans.
- Add enough of the reserved water to completely cover the beans.
- Cover the bean pot and bake all day, usually seven to eight hours at 275F.
- Lift the lid occasionally to be sure the beans are still moist, adding more of the reserved water if necessary.
- Uncover the pot for the last hour of cooking so the sauce thickens and the beans brown a little.
- Remove the onion and the bay leaves before serving the beans.
- A splash of red wine vinegar adds another delicious layer of flavour and complements the sweetness of the baked beans.