Recently on a brief trip to Portland, Maine to celebrate my friend Holly’s graduation from Grad School (and also to thoroughly scope out the layout of her house so that I can covertly sneak in and “borrow” her brand new Corgi puppy) CK and I decided to make a quick stop in Freeport. Now for any of you that have had the pleasure of visiting Freeport, you know that it’s impossible for the time you spend there to ever be brief. Freeport is not only home to the Flagship L.L. Bean store, but it’s also packed with fabulous small boutiques and outlets. When I was little I loved visiting so I could check out the in-store open aquarium at L..L. Bean and watch the trout swimming at the base of the spiral staircase, and when I got older I loved having the chance to refresh my wardrobe. Therefore it’s been one of my favorite spots in Maine for most of my life.
CK had never been to Freeport, so I made sure to give him the full touristy tour and while we were checking out the large “Home” section at L.L. Bean I lost my mind, apparently forgot momentarily that I actually was from Maine, and bought a New England Maple Baked Beans gift set. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was seduced by that mini bottle of Maple Syrup and the cute red bow. In case you aren’t aware, Baked Beans are the traditional Saturday night fare in New England and my grandparents always served them with hot dogs and B&M Brown Bread. Yes that’s the bread that comes in a can. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Honestly, growing up, I hated homemade baked beans, and would avoid them at all cost in favor of the one’s that came in a can. But this little gift set has changed my tune. After following the directions for sorting, soaking, prepping, and baking I was rewarded with the most delicious bowl of baked beans I’ve ever had. It probably didn’t hurt that they were full of brown sugar, tart green apple bites, Vermont maple syrup, and a really obscene amount of thick cut bacon. I served my bean “supper” with ridiculously overpriced hot dogs from Whole Foods and whipped up a loaf of Mark Bitman’s Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread, which tastes eerily similar to that bread in a can I have such fond memories of.
So in the Fall, if you’re looking for something hearty to serve a small army than definitely consider trying out this set or whipping up your own homemade batch of baked beans. If you do order the online kit just keep in mind that they’re calling it “Vermont Maple Baked Beans.” In addition, that cute little bottle of amber colored syrup is only a third of the amount that you actually use in the dish so be sure to stock up on your favorite real maple syrup before you begin the time consuming, but definitely worthwhile, cooking process.