Chili Beans (Boston Style)

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This version of baked beans is like a cross between plain chili beans, which can be rather austere, and Boston-style baked beans. It is adapted from Harley Dent’s The Feast of Santa Fe, where he says that this style “was clearly devised by a cook who knew how beans were baked in Boston and wasn’t about to abandon them just because a chili or two hove into sight.” It is a two step recipe, in which the first step is making a pot of boiled pinto beans, which can be used for this or other purposes, and the second step is adding the chilies and other flavorings. We served this with smoked ribs.


2 cups dried pinto beans


First group of flavorings:

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup diced country ham or salt pork

1 tsp. whole cumin seeds

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

½ tsp. oregano

1 tsp. salt


Second group of flavorings:

1 onion, chopped

¼ cup cider vinegar

3 Tbs. brown sugar

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. thyme

1 tsp. dried mustard

½ tsp. salt

2 cups tomato puree

4 Tbs. chili powder

½ cup strong coffee


Rinse the beans. Give them a hot soak by putting two quarts of water into a large pot, bringing the water to a boil, adding the beans, and returning the pot to a boil. Boil the beans for two minutes, and then cover and remove from the heat and allow to soak for an hour.

After soaking, remove the beans from the pot, tossing the soaking liquid in case it contains any grit. Return the beans to the clean pot and cover with two inches of water. Add the first group of flavoring ingredients. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook until the beans are soft. How long this will take depends on how fresh the dried beans are. The most recent time it took only an hour.

When the beans are soft, add the second group of flavoring ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the sauce is thick and the beans are soft and tasty, which will take one or two hours.


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