Marie Nightingale’s Baked Jacob’s Cattle Beans

Heirloom Beans, cattle beans, baked beans recipe, marie nightingale, canada recipe, canada foodHalifax-based food writer and Maritime icon, Marie Nightingale, was pulling together an article on beans and found this great recipe on the back of the package of  Webster’s Farms from Cambridge, Nova Scotia.  Calling the family to ask their permission to publish it, she was greeted with a laugh.  Turned out that it was one of her own that they’d used because it was so delicious.

Jacob’s Cattle Beans, the prettiest beans I’ve seen, are an old variety which were specific to the Maritimes and New England for many years and most certainly migrated north with the Loyalists.  But food is always on the move and the beans in the image to the left were grown in Wellington County, Ontario.   For this recipe, white beans or any other heirloom bean will work well.

  • 1 – 1 lb/454 g package dried Jacob’s Cattle Beans
  • 2 tsps (10 mL) dry mustard
  • 1/3 cup (75 L) packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) molasses
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oz (115 g)  salt pork or bacon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) white vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced

Cover the beans with cold water and soak overnight. Alternately place beans in a large pot with 6 cups (1.5 L) water, cover and bring to a boil.  Boil 5 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.  Drain and discard water, then rinse.

Place drained beans in a large pot with 6 cups (1.5 L) water, after boiling for 5 minutes, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about 30 minutes.  To see whether a bean is tender, simply remove it from the boiling water and blow on it.  If the skin cracks and peel back, it’s ready. Drain, reserving 1 cup (250 mL) of the liquid.   Transfer to a slow cooker, bean pot or casserole with a lid.  Combine the reserved water with mustard, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, pork or bacon and vinegar.

Cook on high in a slow cooker or at 300’F (150’C) in the oven.  Beans done in a slow cooker will take about 6 hours; in the oven from 4 to 6 hours.  Add water during cooking as needed to keep beans moist.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from Anita Stewart’s CANADA: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (HarperCollins Canada 2008)