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Classic Vermont Baked Beans: It All Makes Sense Now!

Jennifer in our Customer Service Department was in contact with Leslie Mastalarz, a new customer. Leslie wrote:
"I'm impressed! Upon using the last of my yellow eye beans for Vermont (made with maple syrup, not molasses like Boston) baked beans, I started searching the Internet for sources. As a long time resident of California and advocate for buying food produced as close to home as possible, I was glad to find Rancho Gordo. The website is inspiring me to try other varieties, and was so easy to use, and although stores carrying your products were listed with good directions they are not convenient."
Jennifer (who is a very charming woman) asked if Leslie might share her recipe for Vermont Baked Beans and we lucked out!
"I usually double the recipe as I use a bean pot that takes two pounds of beans...and am lucky to have even a cup of beans left over. Vermont baked beans are on the drier side, compared to soupy canned varieties. The Rancho Gordo beans are so fresh that they took less time and liquid to prepare than from sources that may have warehoused beans is less suitable conditions for years."
For me, it explains the mystery of how the beans soften even though you're using an acidic food like maple syrup. The secret: they don't! You cook the beans before adding the delicious liquid! Thanks, Leslie for this. As a Native Son of the Golden West, I'm more comfortable with charro beans than baked beans but I can tell how I'll be spending the weekend now! What follows is Leslie's recipe, unedited. The future is ripe with possibilities! Thank you so much, Leslie! Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans: Yellow Eyes VERMONT MAPLE BAKED BEANS 1 lb. Rancho Gordo Yellow Rye beans, picked over and soaked overnight (6+ hrs.) or use quick-soak method* 6 oz. salt pork, rind removed and halved (supermarkets carry in 12 oz. packages now so I use half instead of 7 or 8 oz. from a butcher) - ham hock or ham bone can be substituted or meat may be omitted for vegetarian version, but compensate with more salt 1 small onion stuck with 4 cloves (onion can be omitted and 1/8 tsp. cloves can be substituted) 1 tsp. kosher salt 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 1 tsp. dry mustard 1 tsp. ground ginger 1/2 tsp. rubbed thyme, optional 1 c. pure Vermont grade B maple syrup Boiling water, approximately 4 c., to cover beans for baking, if needed or preferred to using bean liquor Preheat oven to 275F degrees. Drain beans and cover with fresh water. ** Bring to boil and cook until skins start to peel. Reserve liquid (bean liquor).. Pour beans into bean pot or baking dish with lid (taller rather than flatter). Push onion down into beans, then push salt pork just under surface. Add seasonings (no need to stir as liquids will disperse). Add maple syrup. Rinse maple syrup measure with bean liquor and add to pot. Add bean liquor or boiling water to cover, reserving extra in case needed. (Bring remaining liquor or water to boil if beans are drying). Cover tightly and bake in middle of oven until beans are just tender, about 4 hrs. Uncover and bake until most of liquid is absorbed; some like top to be slightly crusty, about 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. more. Some consider the onion and salt pork as treats so I just set them aside for those who do and let everyone serve themselves from the bean pot. * Quick cook method - Cover beans with water, at least 2" over in 4-qt pan for 1 lb of beans and bring to boil, uncovered. Turn off heat and let stand for 1 hr.. Proceed from ** in directions.
Because I bake beans for my dad's (90+) July 4th birthday as we are Vermonters by birth, but Californians for over 50 yrs., it usually means in a heat wave so I soak beans in the afternoon and bake overnight at 200 degrees, not having to remove lid as longer cooking time reduces the liquid. When done, I turn off heat and leave beans in oven until needed a few hours later. Reminiscent of my ancestors who would not cook on Sundays so beans were Saturday night's supper and the bean pot left on the hearth to consume after spending Sunday in church The aroma will tell you the beans are done.

1 comment

Neil Conklin

Similar to my mother’s recipe, she was an accomplished farm cook and home economics teacher. Her original recipe included a small amount of white sugar along with the maple syrup (note though most Vermonters know what grade B, also referred to as bean syrup the current grading system refers to it as Dark. Very dark would be too intense for most tastes, golden—formerly fancy—would be lost but Amber would be fine if you can’t find dark). My mom’s recipe calls for 1 cup of syrup to 2 lbs of beans. I cut it back to 3/4 cup which I find plenty sweet enough. As a transplant to the Southwest I often throw in a whole fresh jalapeño or other hot pepper along with the beans. I use 2X the dry mustard in this recipe and don’t use ginger or cloves.

My mother’s first choice of beans was soldier beans (hard to find outside northern New England and I have had poor luck finding quality soldier beans on the internet. I use them when my brother sends me some that he has grown) but she would also use yellow eyes or Jacob’s cattle beans if she couldn’t get soldier beans. Not long before she passed away she told me that a batch I had baked with Rancho Gordo yellow eyes were the best beans she ever had. I am not sure I believe it but I will take the complement.

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