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).
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?
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.