I made these yesterday and the flavor is very good. But they came out too watery. I cooked them in the slow cooker with a liner. Do you think that made the difference? I thought they’d have the consistence of oven-baked beans. I don’t know if I’d make again in the slow cooker if the consistency is so watery. They did have great flavor though.
I made these without the salt pork . I used a quarter cup of veg oil . Wow! What a great flvor. My wife told me it us a keeper!
I made these in the slow cooker awhile back and they were very good. I recently got an Instant Pot pressure cooker and made them in that. I soaked the beans first and then cooked them for 45 minutes on manual. They were SOOO good. If possible, even better than in the slow cooker and so much faster.
Thanks Ann for sharing your Instant Pot directions!
Has anyone tried this without the salt pork? Looking for a vegetarian version. I was thinking I’d just add some liquid smoke towards the end.
Elise, I read the article about NOT soaking the beans and am going to try it that way. I am wondering if this means I should use more water in your recipe to compensate. Thanks!
Hi Robert, yes, you’ll need to add more water, but your guess is as good as mine as to how much.
I went ahead while keeping a close eye on it. Had to add some water but not much, maybe a cup or more. Turned out well, thank you! Particularly tasty when served with a little apple cider vinegar as someone suggested in a comment.
First, let me say that I had lost this recipe somewhere in cyber space,, having made these beans several times already. So, I am VERY happy to have found it again!
Second, to all those who have had issues with beans that require even more cooking time than the eight hours specified: I picked up a tip some time ago for use in cooking beans of all types. Simply add 1-1.5 teaspoon(s) of good ol’ baking soda to the cooking liquid. Tough and/or older beans will soften right up.
About how many servings does this recipe make? I would love to make it for a picnic for about 40 people.
Hi Michelle, it serves 5-6 as a main dish or 10-12 as a side
I just made this baked bean recipe for my 4th of July dinner party, delicious! This recipe is a keeper, thank you for a delicious recipe ☺.
I plan to use the oven method using a cast iron Le Creuset. How long should I cook for at 250 ?
Hi Michael, the same amount of time.
350 for three hours.
I have made these three times – they came out great the first time but the last two times just won’t soften. I soaked them for 16 hours then put them in the crock pot. As of now they’ve been cooking for 10 hours and are barely softer than when I started. I’ve used the same beans and crockpot all three times…guess I need to use canned beans from now on. For those with a consistency problem, I add around a cup of ketchup and a little more brown sugar at the end. Tasty!
Hi Kat. It sounds like maybe your crockpot is failing. That’s how mine acted before it quit.
Is there a good way to make this with canned white beans? I have some on hand already, so I’d like to use them up. Thank you!
Hi Crystal, if I were to make this recipe with canned beans I would not add any water to the slow cooker, but use 3 15-ounce cans of beans (with the water in the can).
This is the second time I made this recipe, and the second time it’s turned out watery. I have no idea what I am doing wrong. Last time I used soaked, dry beans so this time I used canned beans. Same result. Last time I used an older crock pot, this time I used a new one. I have no idea why. I’ve got the lid off, in hopes that some of the liquid will steam out.
Hi Kathy, with dry beans it could be the beans or the slow cooker. I would use less liquid next time. With canned beans? This recipe is for dry beans and isn’t meant to be used with canned beans. I don’t think I would add more than a cup of water if using beans that were already cooked.
hi, you can thicken the beans by taking out about half to 3 quarters of a cup of beans and mashing them. Then put them back into the beans and mix well. Voila, thickened bean sauce.
Real good, but the recipe needs salt. My salt pork wasn’t salty enough!
The good thing about salt is that you can always add more.
Have these in my slow cooker now…. used pork belly sprinkled with sea salt in place of the salt pork. .. hopefully it will turn out great…… also doubled the recipe!
Great idea to use pork belly Janna!
Very nervous about making this recipe for following reasons: (1) never made them before, (2) many of your experienced blog-followers ended up with underdone beans, despite long hours of cooking, (3) were my beans fresh enough? Your recipe turned out great! Used Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. I also recommend buying brand name beans, for freshness. This will be my go-to, trusted BBB recipe!
If you have the opportunity, try cooking these in a smoker @ 250 for 8 hours, right underneath a nice Boston Butt. The beans catch the renderings from the butt AND the smokiness that the butt is getting too. You just have to be willing to sacrifice a suitable dish to being smoke stained. But you can always use it in the smoker again & again.
My beans are done! 8 hours on low & 3 hours on high. They are delicious and I made them without the salt pork. My brown bread is cooling for another hour so I guess this is a meal for tomorrow since it’s getting late.
According to the folks at Rancho Gordo, who are heirloom bean growers in Napa Valley Ca.:
“Add the beans and their soaking water to a large pot. You have been told before to change the water and rinse the beans. The thinking now is that vitamins and flavor can leech out of the beans into the soaking water you are throwing down the sink. There is no scientific evidence that changing the water cuts down on the gas.”
I have been cooking my beans in the soaking water since I read this and both my beans and my body are happy.
Actually the gas associated with beans is due to your body not used to the high fiber content. If you eat bean regularly you won’t have as much gas.
Actually, beans (legumes) cause gas because they contain a particular sugar, called oligosaccharide, that the human body can not break down. Oligosaccharides are large molecules and are not broken down and absorbed in the same way that other sugars are: by the normal digestive process that takes place in the small intestine. This is because the human body actually does not produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides, actually.
Be sure to rinse well after soaking; do not cook the beans in the water they soaked in. This helps reduce the gas issues often associated with beans.
I used bacon instead of salt pork because that’s what I had on hand; other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. Excellent recipe! I am glad I resisted the urge to add any extra “stuff” to it!
I don’t know how old my beans are. I’m guessing a year+. Is there anything special I can do to make sure they aren’t hard?
Hi Karen, the older your beans, the longer you’ll have to cook them to get them tender.
Be sure to pick over your beans and soak overnight followed by boiling until skin loosens when blown on, My family use soldier or yellow eye beans, salt pork and dried mustard and being Vermonters real maple syrup instead of molasses! My brother-in-law taught me to sprinkle my serving with cider vinegar. Yum.
Beans are great. Can I freeze them? And how many days will they keep in refrig? Thanks.
I live a little south of Boston and scoured the Internet for a recipe for these. None looked quite right to me or else had a ridiculous amount of ingredients, some which I knew would not be good in these. I just made them today. I wanted to use dried beans and this recipe seemed great. It was! Absolutely fool proof, simple and delicious. Thanks!
Hi Yvonne, I’m so glad you liked it!
I’m afraid I add to the Canadian contingent whose salted pork rendered this otherwise tasty dish in edible. Safeway salted pork – at almost half the listed amount – is too salty. I’ll try again with a smoked hock instead.
I’m making this recipe right now and I’ve been cooking this for about 13 hours now and the beans are STILL al dente. I followed the recipe to a T. After googling and reading some of these comments, I either need to buy canned beans or cook the dried beans on their own until they’re mostly done before adding the molasses and other stuff.
Hi Hanny, many things can affect the cooking time of dried beans, including the alkalinity of the water and the age of the beans. The older the beans, the longer they will take to cook.
I doubled the recipe and used a bag of Navy Beans with a bag of Great Northern White beans. I soaked the beans over night and felt that they were too tough. I brought the beans to a boil and simmered them for an hour. I believe it may be better to boil beans and remove the film afterwards that accumulates on the top. They were much softer afterwards. I used fresh maple Bacon Pieces in the bottom that I had on hand. I diced them smaller than the large chunks. After 8 hours in the crockpot, I thought it needed more brown sugar and molasses. They turned out good and went nicely with or smoked ribs. Thank you!
Can these be water bath canned?
No, there’s not enough acidity to safely can these baked beans using a water canning method.
That was a great story about Boston and the molasses disaster. I have a brother in law just outside of Boston and he grows cranberries. In 2012 Detroit had a salt mine disaster, and the whole city fell into a hole. Just kidding, but that’s what most Michiganders wish would happen. I’m trying this recipe right now, and it looks like a good recipe to me. I always have molasses and dark brown sugar on hand. WE grow a lot of sugar beats here in Michigan, and we build cars as you probably know. Should I cook the salt pork before putting it into the slow cooker or just use it as is? I’ve never used salt pork before. Hey, good luck in the playoff against the Tigers in game six and beyond we hope here anyway.
No need to cook the salt pork first, just into the pot it goes!
They turned out great. My grandchildren are sneaking in the kitchen and eating them right out of the slow cooker.
G’day from Australia. I tried this recipe after going to brunch and being offered canned baked beans (shudder). I used smoked speck. What a knock-out! My neighbour delivered farm eggs and I have pork chippolatas. Brunch from heaven!
G’day Helen, I’m so glad you liked the baked beans! I bet they were amazing with the smoked speck. Yum.
I followed this recipe to a “T”; unfortunately, it did not work out. It’s waaaay too watery. I should have figured.
One trick for watery beans..
Take about a cup out ,mash them and add back to the pot..it will thicken the lovely juice for you
I really want to make this recipe but I live in Peru and cannot buy molasses. Do you have suggestions as to what I can use as a replacement and still get similar results. Thanks.
Hi Curtis, unfortunately there is no substitute for the molasses flavor in this recipe. You may be able to use a lighter version of molasses if you can find it, by another name. Look for treacle or golden syrup.
This recipe is great! I have made it twice now, and even doubled it the second time because the first batch went so quickly. I fried the onion in some of the bacon before adding to the pot. I also added black pepper, cayenne, crushed chillies, and a 1/4 c of Jack Daniels per recipe. The Jack really adds a depth to the flavor! So good!
Wow, it took 15 hours for the beans to finally become soft in the crock pot. Great tasting but be aware of the time… Or was it just my beans??
Many things can make the beans take longer to cook, including the age of the beans (they could have been up to a year old when you bought them) and the hardness of the water. So, yes, the timing is variable. ~Elise
I happened to run across your recipe while I was googling a recipe for baked beans and ham. This dish sounds amazing, and I really want to try it, but at the moment, I only have lima beans on hand (not Great Northern or Navy beans). Would it be possible to substitute lima beans, or would that destroy the dish? I haven’t cooked enough with dry white beans to be able to differentiate between all the different varieties. Thank you!
Lima beans are very different in taste than white beans. Personally I would not substitute. But if you do, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise
Heartily disliking tomato based baked beans, I was thrilled to find this recipe. Sounds very much like the ones I loved growing up in convents in Vermont and Canada where the good sisters used maple syrup instead of molasses. Would it throw recipe off if I browned the salt pork a bit before using? And, if I do that should I pour the rendered grease into the slow cooker with the beans?
Browning the salt pork? Don’t think it should be a problem. If you try it that way, please let us know how it turns out for you. As for the rendered fat, I think the beans benefit from the fat, so I would put it back in. ~Elise
I know this is an older post but just wanted to say I made these this weekend for a family party and they were a hit! Used navy beans, and I had some guests with lots of chemical sensitivities so I used some uncured bacon instead of salt pork. In hindsight I should have used extra bacon to compensate for the weaker flavor and added a little salt too–they were just a tad bland. (Regular bacon might have added enough salt but the uncured stuff just isn’t as salty.) Maybe for this reason I felt like they needed a little something later so I stirred in extra salt and a couple teaspoons of cider vinegar when I served them. Great recipe and I’ll definitely make again!
Can this recipe be doubled? I am having a barbecue cookout for my son’s first birthday this weekend and we’re expecting around 45 people. I was thinking of using this recipe but doubling it for extra servings. Thanks!
I don’t see why not. You’ll just need to use a large slow-cooker. ~Elise
If I were to use canned beans, how long would I have to cook the beans for? Because those don’t take too long to get more tender.
Canned beans are already cooked. So, you could cook them again, for just an hour if you wanted, to absorb some of the flavor from the other ingredients. ~Elise
Love, love, love this recipe. Made it today and was blown away by the end result. It was awesome… my husband loved it instantly. It will go great with Sunday Brunch or a good shore lunch pickerel feed from Northern Ontario.
Thanks a bunch. This is a keeper!
I love that you included the history and the bean cooking information. I am going to share this with my 13 year old unofficial Goddaughter who has a passion for cooking. I have used this recipe and similar ones and have found that I like it with smoked chicken and turkey legs that are readily available to me at the local deli. The legs are free range, naturally smoked and produced in my small city. This dish works well for our Jewish friends as well and it’s glutin free–a great potluck contribution. I find that if I place the Crock (of the slow cooker) in a box insulated by newspaper the dish continues to cook and stay hot like in the old fashioned strawbox. This was a favourite cowboy dish after all.
2nd attempt at making these beans and it’s not going well…..1st time beans were old couldn’t remeber how long they’s been on the shelf – apparently too long.
2nd time I went and bought new beans at WF, soaked overnight, looked great. Put them in the crockpot yesterday at 7:00a.m. on low it’s a 8 or 10 hour setting, I chose 10 hours and they still weren’t done. Barely obsorbed the liquid. I put them in the frig overnight. Put them in the oven for 4 hours ago on 275. They are softer but have not thickened up. I followed the recipe exactly.
I remember loving Horn & Hardart’s baked beans as a child, and made this recipe in hopes of recreating that experience. These beans are excellent as is, but to be picky, I found them a bit sweet and runny (even after a few days) for my taste. Next time, I might add more molasses, less sugar, and bake them uncovered for an hour or so.
I made these beans yesterday and I have to say that I agree, way better the next day. When they were first finished they were pretty liquidy, as I let them cool the beans seemed to absorb a lot of the liquid. Not only are they less ‘wet’ the next day, they taste a lot better!
Anyway, great recipe!
Going to try this with Lima beans. My dad used to make them from his grandmother’s recipe. And you can still smell the molasses on hot humid days.
I’m planning on making this for my son’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor (baked beans and Boy Scouts seem to go together – maybe it’s the “musical” quality of both). I saw that I can double it, but can I freeze it? Will freezing make the beans go to mush?
By the way, love your posts, Elise. Your blog is on my home page and I read pretty much all of them. Many also populate my recipe box! ;-)
No idea on the freezing of the beans Keli, but if you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise
My mother-in law always had frozen beans in the freezer for unexpected guests. She would just warm them up in the oven or if it was too hot to turn on the oven in the microwave.
We always ate them and liked them. But thinking about it we would eat what ever she put in front of us. Always good. I miss that old gal.
Hi Elise! I absolutely love receiving your emails and always look forward to adding tried and true recipes to my repertoire!
I made this recipe yesterday and unfortunately it was terribly salty and inedible as is. I did not add any additional salt to the beans so it definitely was the salt pork. I live in Canada and perhaps U.S. salt pork is different? What can I do to the salt pork to make it less salty? Boil or fry it up first? Substitute bacon instead (although I’m afraid it could come out just as salty)?
To try to mask the salt, I added the following ingredients (approximate amounts) which my husband said helped a lot (using organic navy beans, soaking over night and baking 10 hours):
– 1/2 cup ketchup
– 2 tbsp. sugar
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 5 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!
Hmm, perhaps it is the brand of salt pork? Yes you can boil the salt pork first, to remove some of the salt. You can also use much less salt pork. For half as much salt, use half as much salt pork. To save a pot of beans that is already too salty, you can add some canned white beans (rinsed and drained) to what you already have. ~Elise
I saw this recipe, and thought it sounded tasty. I had them ready the day my husband got home from a week-long trip. He started eating them cold from the fridge and had to ask me to take away the spoon before he ate the entire container – they were that good! Thank you so much for posting this recipe.
I am always interested in recipes that involve dry beans in any kind of sauce. I tried your recipe twice but I don’t seem to get the timing right. The first time the beans turned into mash (very tasty though) and the second time I reduced the cooking time and the beans did not cook all equally. It could be that the beans are mixed from different crops (fresh and old) or my slow cooker is defective. I will try it again but I will see if I can finish it on the stove. Anyway, thank you for your recipe and I hope I’ll get it right this time.
Thank you for the recipe. I tried it for the very first time and it came out perfect. I look for comfort food recipes, and using my slow cooker is a huge plus. This will go into my recipe box!
Excellent recipe Elise! Followed it exactly. Loved it. I have tried baked beans many times with no real success. This one is a keeper. Thank you.
YUM! These beans were amazing! I used bacon instead of salt pork, and made it for my small group. I doubled the recipe and it still came out like a dream. Thank you, Elise!!
Great bean recipe. I soaked them overnight, poured off the water, added more water and 1 tsp. baking soda and brought them to a boil, turned off heat and let them set for 1 hour and rinsed. Well worth the extra effort, no gas!!!!…but not having a crock pot, I used a dutch oven…a word of warning , it takes a lot more water if you use a dutch oven, even with the oven on about 300 degrees. I cooked them for about 7 hours and checked them twice. Both times I did not stir, just added about 1 1/2 cups water. Have made a lot of beans, not lately thought…The salt pork, which I had in the freezer really makes the dish. I will layer in more next time..also a tip from an Amish cookbook, add about 1/4 cup catsup! All in all–great! and my husband thanks you, it was always his favorite!
Mine turned out tasty, but burnt. I checked them about 4 hours in and had to add more water – but the damage had already been done by then. Do you find you have to add more water halfway through, or is it just me?
My beans were on the watery side when just cooked, just right the next day. It probably has something to do with the moisture content of the specific beans you were using. I’ll put a note in the recipe to check the water. ~Elise
I made these beans in the oven tonight. I used Hormel brand Salt Pork and Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. Both are very salty (to my palate), and I found the end result to be WAY too salty for me. Next time I make this, I will not add any extra salt.
Despite all the saltiness, the flavor was totally delicious. I will try to salvage the salty beans by adding water and a peeled raw potato. (I googled it, and boiling a raw potato in salty beans is supposed to draw out the saltiness. You throw out the salty potato at the end.)
Is salt pork higher in sodium than bacon? Did anyone try it with the bacon?
Hi Megan, I’m wondering if it’s an issue with the brand of salt pork used. I got mine from Whole Foods, maybe it’s less salty than Hormel. Because this seems to be an issue, I will remove the extra salt from the recipe and just say to add more salt to taste if needed at the end. I did make this recipe 4 times to test it, without saltiness ever being an issue. ~Elise
This recipe was a hit for my family! I used ground beef in place of the pork since that is what I had on hand.
Had not read comments about calcium keeping beans from cooking to soft stage. Beans a shade off of very hard after 18 hrs cooking. Also a very sharp almost acidic flavor that no one liked. Entire pot thrown out. Evidently need a tomato based recipe for this family.
Sounds like your beans were old (as in over a year old). Another thing that can throw off cooking dried beans is the hardness of the water used. The acidity is coming from the vinegar in the mustard, which is there to balance out the sweetness of the molasses and sugar. If you want the beans less acidic, you can cut down on the mustard, or use dry mustard. ~Elise
I have beans soaking for this recipe as we speak. I do have a question – what is the logic behind draining the beans after soaking rather than using the water they were in? Is there any noticeable difference? I’ve never made baked beans before so I’m curious about the different methods. :)
There is a flatulence-inducing chemical in the beans that is water soluble. Supposedly soaking the beans and then draining the soaking water will get rid of some of the problem. ~Elise
Loved the recipe posting . . . made the beans tonight AND the Boston brown bread. The bread was AMAZING . . . but I didn’t know you needed to wash off the saltpork, and the beans were way too salty. They were good enough to try again – but next time, I think I’ll just use bacon.
Hi Kitty, you shouldn’t have to rinse off the salt pork. I didn’t. Besides, the salt has been absorbed into the salt pork. ~Elise
Love the recipe – we do beans almost the same way, my mother-in-law always had a pot in the oven on Saturdays. She made them with lean salt pork, dry mustard, and no cloves. Otherwise, the same as posted. Oh, and instead of chopping the onions we add a small whole onion sliced almost through into fourths. And we don’t drain the beans after soaking/simmering. We use that bean broth instead of the 3 cups of hot water. I can smell the aroma right now! Looking forward to next Saturday – would love to make these…
I had forgotten that I had read about the Boston Molasses Flood years ago in a Smithsonian Magazine (Nov ’83). Here’s a link to a copy of the article but it doesn’t have the pictures: Without Warning, Molasses in January Surged Over Boston.
Here’s an article with photos: The Boston Molassacre. ~Elise
I have tried many times to make delicious Boston Baked Beans like my mother made when I was a child but mine always fall short of perfection. Your recipe and instructions sound like my mother’s recipe so this time I will follow recipe word-for-word. One thing I will do differently is to use dry mustard instead of Dijon. The main thing that I want to suggest is for the benefit of those cooks who are cooking any type of dried beans for the first time, always sort through the beans for small stones and/or harvesting debris. This is important. I always find at least one stone or more per bag of beans. Love your website! Thanks.
Great point on picking out the stones. I use Dijon because the beans benefit from the acidity in the vinegar that’s in the mustard. A nice balance to the sweet molasses. You could use dry mustard and just add a bit of vinegar to the beans. ~Elise
Wow, looks delish! I can’t get over the Molasses disaster. Can you seriously still smell it in the North End?
I don’t know about now, but when I lived there in the early 80s I could swear I could smell it. ~Elise
Which is better: soak the beans overnight or boil? I want to make this for my brother since he loves beans but he is picky with his beans.
I would say soak overnight. The boil and soak method is the shortcut. ~Elise
Your beans are basically like mine but I use dry mustard and the method is a little different. I soak them overnight, but don’t drain. I use that water, cook on high in a crock until tender, then start adding ingredients slowly until the desired sweetness and color. Usually about 8 hours does it. By the way, I’m from Mass, my mom was from Canada, and that is her recipe. Now I live in SC and you don’t get good beans here unless you cook them yourself. Thank you.
Your baked beans look gorgeous, Elise! As a proud Bostonian and history buff, I am a big fan of both baked beans and the anecdotal gem that is the Great Molasses Disaster.
I used to have baked beans at cookouts next to my hamburger or hotdog, but now my favorite way to eat them is for breakfast alongside some scrambled eggs and wheat toast. Delicious!
1) Irrelevant point: There is a book called “Dark Tide” about the Boston Molasses Flood. My father-in-law lived in Boston and was 16 at the time of the flood.
2) As above, our 50+ year old recipe uses dry mustard instead of Dijon mustard and uses all molasses instead of brown sugar.
3) We always rinse out any old catsup bottles we have left and add that to the bean liquid.
4) I think it was Harold McGee who said that once you add the molasses, the beans will never become more tender. We soak them over night (and they are still hard) and then boil them just until the beans begin to split (about an hour) and then into the oven with the rest of the stuff.
Unhappily, the molasses and rum were part of a triangle route that included buying slaves on the West Coast of Africa and selling them in the Caribbean. The proceeds were then used to buy sugar, which was brought back to Boston and made into rum.
I have a similar recipe that uses baby lima beans, dried mustard and a ham hock. At the end, I dismantle the ham hock and add the meat back into the beans. Delicious!
Growing up in Ipswich we also always had baked beans every saturday night. My whole family actually owns bean pots and we cook our beans all day in the oven on low heat. My recipe uses dried mustard instead of Dijon mustard. We always had cold bean sandwiches on sunday morning. Bread with butter and then the beans. I still do that now-people think I’m nuts. Love your blog. I has been a favorite of mine, great recipes and stories.
My mother made them every Saturday night. And on Monday morning, every school kid headed out the door with bean sandwiches for their lunch. I learned to make them at my mother’s side. I never saw her refer to a recipe. She told me she made them the very same way her mother and grandmother made them.
Like my mother I made them every Saturday night. On Friday night after cleaning the kitchen from supper, I would put a bag of beans to soak after I went through them to find any small rocks or unpleasant icky beans. And I made my beans the same way my mother did. And this recipe is as close to her way of making them that I have seen. I love beans when they are ice cold after sitting in the fridge overnight. I was very fortunate in that I inherited my mother’s bean pot. I found out from my mother before she passed away, that it was her mother’s bean pot first. A well seasoned bean pot created beans made with love by each generation.
I know it’s heresy to ask this, but if you wanted to make vegetarian Boston baked beans (i.e., no salt pork), what could you substitute? I tend to use barbecue sauce in soups and stews to get the smoky flavor without the pork. Or organic liquid smoke. Any suggestions?
I would also like an answer on the vegetarian question. Is the fat from the salt pork needed or is it for flavor only? Meaning could I just omit it but then need to add some oil?
The salt pork is important mostly for the flavor. If you omit it, I would still add a little oil though.
No salt pork need for vegetarian Boston Baked Beans. the beans will still be delicious. This is a very good recipe for real Boston Baked Beans. Never add any tomatoes to the beans or they will NOT be Boston Baked Beans! Never, Never, Never!
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