janet @ the taste space

Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans (with European Soldier Beans)

In Sides on January 26, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans (with European Soldier Beans)

Bean envy.

Do you have it?

Jealous of those who live in the US with easy access to Rancho Gordo heirloom beans? RG even has a BEAN CLUB!! Or how about heirloom beans from Kalustyan’s, Purcell Mountain Farms or MarxFood? I mean, they technically could ship to Canada, but it costs way too much to be feasible (beans are heavy). I have recruited very loving family and friends help me collect my heirloom bean stash. My Christmas present included heirloom beans (and tote bag) my brother picked from Rancho Gordo‘s booth while vacationing in San Francisco. Woohoo for me!

I have searched for local options. Canada has such vast farmland; why don’t we have heirloom beans? Turns out you just need to know where to look. I have had good luck at ethnic grocers (Sunny’s has a whole half aisle dedicated to beans), Whole Foods (especially the store near Square One in Mississauga) and for those that don’t live nearby you can even mail order Nova Scotian beans right to your front door. But only if you buy 12 lbs. 🙂

Not daunted by such a large amount of beans, I ordered a mix of Jacob’s Cattle, Soldier and Yellow Eye beans from Webster Farms, a family farm in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. I have been eating the Yellow Eye beans as a nice alternative to white beans. The next experiment is for the European soldier beans, named after its red markings (the red coats of the British soldiers).

Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans (with European Soldier Beans)

I decided to tackle a Canadian specialty: baked beans. In the Nova Scotian way. I mean, these beans are from Nova Scotia, how could I not?

Turns out there was a recipe on the back of the package for baked beans. In general, recipes for baked beans call for gobs of sugar – molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Most recipes will advise you specifically not to use blackstrap molasses, but the recipes that use it are the recipes that interest me the most. Blackstrap molasses may be bitter but it also has a lot of iron and calcium, too.

So, on a wintry night, I warmed the house with a slow-cooked pot of baked beans. With a trio of soldier beans, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed butter, we have an iron overload. Food bloggers always exaggerate, right? I am not kidding. With almost 40mg of iron in one serving, that’s 220% of the standard recommended daily intake. (If you don’t believe vegans need extra iron, of course). Eat an orange and pass on coffee/tea to help absorb it all. These beans are not too sweet but have a depth from the bitter blackstrap molasses. The pumpkin seed butter makes these a lot more creamy than they look. The slow cooking makes the sauce thick and full-bodied. I stopped after 3 hours but feel free to let it cook into the evening.

So, envying the beans, yet? 🙂

Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans (with European Soldier Beans)

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, and to month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan.

Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans
Adapted from Ripe From Around Here (original recipe found here)

1 lb (2 1/3 cups) soldier beans (or navy or yellow-eye or pinto, etc), soaked overnight
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can tomato paste (~1/2 cup) (optional, but I used it)
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (substitute molasses for a sweeter taste)
1/4 cup pumpkin seed butter
sweetener, to taste (Jae recommends 2 tbsp brown sugar but I did not add anything else)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp Ancho chile powder (optional, but highly recommended)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Discard soaking water and rinse beans.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Place beans along with 6 cups of fresh water in a large oven-safe Dutch oven or large saucepot. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the beans are almost done but not quite (around 30-60 minutes). Remove any scum that accumulates at the top.

3. Add onion, tomato paste, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seed butter, salt, ground mustard, ginger, chile powder, and any additional sweetener, to taste. Add an additional cup of water. Cover and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Check to see if any additional water is needed. Reduce heat to 300F and continue to cook for an additional 4-6 hours, until the sauce is saucy and the beans are meltingly soft. I stopped cooking after 2.5 hours.

Serves 8.

  1. I’ve never enjoyed the sweetness of standard baked beans, but in truth I’ve only ever really had the canned kind! This looks incredible. And oh, I dream of eventually being in a position to splurge on fancy food ingredients again… 🙂

    • Oh gosh.. this is nothing like the canned beans. Those are much more tomato and sugar heavy. These are different, but in a good way. 🙂
      While Rancho Gordo beans are more pricy, these ones are just as bargain-basement prices as others in the grocery store. I bet if you went to Nova Scotia, you would find the beans in the grocer! Although the real cheap beans are in ethnic grocers… $2 for 2kg of red lentils goes a long way. 🙂

  2. I absolutely love the idea of adding pumpkin seed butter to these beans. Inspired! I also just love the name “European Soldier Beans,” but not exactly sure why. It just has a nice ring to it.

  3. This recipe is winter cooking in a nutshell. It’s raining hard on Serendipity Farm today…it might be the middle of summer but this much needed rain reminds me of lighting our 4 burner wood stove and how she is going to sustain us for 10 months from April on. She never goes out…just slumbers overnight and making these beans will be a joy! I can source local beans but as you so rightly point out…I am jealous past “MAX” about Rancho Gordo beans! As a vegan they are the apex of my legume journey. I am growing my own (first year) but the locals (possums and wallabies) have stunted my crop to a cube in my enclosed bean bed (the wallabies eat everything from the ground up and the possums reach in and eat everything else…). This recipe screams “WINTER!” at me and I can’t wait to be enveloped in cold and luxuriating in the bliss of Brunilda’s (our 4 oven wood burning stove) processes all over again for another year…roll on winter! 🙂

    • Home grown beans will be just as awesome as Rancho Gordo! You could even plant any beans you buy from his shop, which is pretty awesome. Although, it sounds like the possums and wallabies might rejoice even more. This year I didn’t have to worry about animals (I had bunnies and raccoons at my last house) but I had problems with aphids. They liked my kale!! Oh, and some sort of bug that ate my kabocha squashes at the roots. They all died a painful death in front of my eyes. 😦

      PS. I love that you named your stove. 🙂

      • Brunhilda is one of the family :). We had to crank her up yesterday as a cyclone was drowning Queensland and pushed a fair bit of bad weather all the way down the east coast of Australia to little old Tasmania where our garden got its very first drink in a month and a half and we enjoyed being able to use Brunhilda to the max! I cooked all sorts of things including a Christmas Pudding that the elderly lady next door gave us that needed “just 2 hours more steaming…”. We only cook with a covered bbq in summer (keeps the heat out of the house) and Brunhilda sees us right for the remaining 8 months of the year when it is cold enough for her to be ticking over. I had a kettle on constantly, our hot water heated as we went about our day and I baked Steve a sticky date pudding for his birthday desert…what’s not to love about a wood burning stove :). I LOVE Brunhilda…she was my little luxury when we moved here 🙂

  4. I’m a big fan of blackstrap molasses and try to use it whenever regular molasses is called for. These beans sound perfect. I’ve been craving baked beans lately and need to give this a try!

  5. Those beans are gorgeous–and I had no idea there was a Nova Scotian recipe for them. Anything Nova Scotian makes takes me down memory lane 🙂 Definitely making this weekend or next!!

  6. I never would have thought to add pumpkin seed butter to baked beans! Very interesting indeed. This may have to happen at our house sometime in the next week…

    • I bookmarked this recipe so long ago but I saved the last of the pumpkin seed butter just for it. I bet other nut butters could work, too, since it wasn’t a dominant flavour… Let me know how you like it. 🙂

  7. maybe it’s a dumb question…but what is pumpkin seed butter? recipe sounds great! but…I have not a clue about that one ingredient!

  8. So…I totally joined the Rancho Gordo year of beans club thing! Got my first shipment the other day and am loving it. I’m mostly glad that it will force me to cook up a batch of beans once a week and get inventive. 🙂 Definitely going to add this to my list of to-make bean recipes!

  9. I don’t know about anyone else but I certainly have bean envy. These look fabulous!

  10. Oh man I have MAJOR bean envy over here! I loooove baked beans and the fact that yours look nutritious and delicious have me craving them massively!

  11. There are some truly magnificent and unusual heirloom varieties out there. I am familiar with all the online retailers you mention, but cautious in my purchases b/c I know it’s not nearly as economical than picking up a bag of black turtles at the local store. : \

    Your beans have that dense, paste-like quality which is so homey and colorful. This would be wonderful mounded on toasted Boston brown bread.

    Thanks, Janet, for another great MLLA recipe!

    • Thanks Susan! It is true that Rancho Gordo is way more expensive than my $2 for 4kg of red lentils, but they are fun on occasion. I like the Nova Scotian beans because it is more like $3/lb, which is comparable to other supermarket beans and I get to support the farm directly.

  12. In Nova Scotia, Webster’s beans are in every supermarket. If you live near a Farm Boy outlet in Ontario, try asking them to order them in. They recently listed Terra Beata farm cranberry juice , also from NS. Also great.

  13. […] trying out new versions. Mango BBQ Beans are one of my favourites, but I also enjoyed the robust Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans with blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seed […]

  14. […] molasses. One is a stovetop version that includes apple to sweeten the sauce and the other is a slow-cooked Nova Scotian style baked beans.  Angela has also shared maple baked lentils with blackstrap molasses as well as a Pumpkin Maple […]

  15. i’m so excited about this recipe. my partner bret is does an end-of-semester potluck for his world music cultures class for which each person cooks a cultural dish from another place in the world. we thought this would be a perfect one for him to bring. can’t wait to try it. i love your bean obsession. haha.

  16. Hey Janet! I just finished baking these beans and they are so good! Very easy to throw together. I soaked my navy beans for two days – changing the water daily. I made my own pumpkin butter because I only had the seeds on hand ( I didn’t bother letting it get super creamy before I just added it to the pot of beans). I used the tomatoe paste and the chili and will keep it in the recipe when I make them the next time. I would have never thought of adding pumpkin seed butter , but it works. I didn’t use brown sugar since I am “trying” to eliminate white sugar, but I did add the same amount of coconut sugar.
    I stopped cooking them around the 2 1/2 hour mark, as well, and they were perfect. Love the flavour in them and this will definitely be my go to baked beans recipe from now on. I’ve been looking for one for a while now.
    My mom used to make them with pork fat ..ikes!!

    Thanks again for sharing

  17. […] Slow-Cooked Nova Scotian Baked Beans […]

  18. […] If you don't have or can't find refined coconut oil, use bacon fat or lard, pumpkin seed butter as Janet does, or skip it altogether.Adjust the amount of mustard and maple to your liking, and feel free to […]

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