home - Culinary History Mysteries - table of contents - bookstores -online purchase


overs of the boiled dinner above, you should not need more salt.

3. Mix meat and vegetables together and add to frying pan with 1/4 cup water.

4. When water begins to bubble, stir once to turn it over, reduce heat and simmer until hash is warmed thoroughly.

Serve for breakfast with eggs and hot biscuits or mush.


This is the first historical recipe I ever cooked, and I still make it. "Boston Baked Beans" became associated with so much sweetening by the end of the nineteenth century that it is quite a surprise to try them with no sugar or molasses at all!

This is apparently the first written recipe for pork and beans, although written sources mention it as a common food for more than a hundred years, and folklore associates it with Puritan Sabbath observance. This recipe appears in the 1829 The Frugal House­wife, by Lydia Maria Child. Mrs. Child learned to cook in Maine as a teenage house­keeper for her married older sister, but wrote the book as a resident of Boston. Native Americans stewed beans with fat or smoked meat (and often with dried corn), and there are dishes of fava beans with pork or bacon in English and French cooking traditions.

Home baking ovens were most common in New England and Pennsylvania, and thus much of the country would have used some­thing more like the boiled Stewed Beans and Pork. Mrs. Child does not specify what kind of beans to use, and the use of small white beans in "Boston Baked Beans" seems to have developed over the eighteenth century. Probably early Americans used whatever dried beans were available, including spotted and yellow-eye beans like the multicolored

Indian beans. Mrs. Child's recipe is very close to the method currently recommended by the California Bean Board to soak out many of the bean sugars now known to cause intestinal gas. I have added a corned beef option mentioned in other early recipes. You can half this recipe for a small pot.

"Baked beans are a very simple dish, yet few cook them well. They should be put in cold water, and hung over the fire, the night before they are baked. In the morning, they should be put in a colander, and rinsed two or three times; then again place in a kettle, with the pork you intend to bake, covered with water, and kept scalding hot, an hour or more. A pound of pork is quite enough for a quart of beans, and that is a large dinner for a common family. The rind of the pork should be slashed. Pieces of pork alternately fat and lean are most suitable; the cheeks are the best. A little pepper sprinkled among the beans, when they are placed in the bean-pot, will render them less unhealthy. They should be just covered with water, when put into the oven; and the pork should be sunk a little below the surface of the beans. Bake three or four hours."


Yield: Serves 6-8

2 pounds dried beans, small white or yellow-eye preferred

1 pound lean salt pork, or point-cut corned beef brisket

Black pepper

Equipment: Large soup pot, bean pot or covered casserole, colander

1. The night before serving, wash beans carefully in the colander and pick over to remove any dirt, small



Copyright 2003, 2004 by Mark H. Zanger. Remember, there is no copyright on recipes or other common household formulae, but copyright and fair use laws do apply to selection of recipes and cultural-historical commentary.