The unique taste of Boston beans comes from molasses, which was once in abundant supply here through the early 1900s. Traditionally the beans are cooked with salt pork, but this recipe substitutes bacon, which is easier to find. Make this for a weekend meal and soak the beans the night before. Use a traditional tall crockery bean pot or a standard Dutch oven or large casserole.
1 pound (2 cups) dried navy beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover by three inches
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 pound thickly sliced lean bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups boiling water
1. Set the oven at 300 degrees. Have on hand a large heavy pot (5 quart capacity).
2. Spread the onions on the bottom of the pot and cover with half the bacon. Drain the beans. Add them to the pot. Cover with the remaining bacon.
3. In a bowl, combine the molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Stir in the boiling water.
4. Pour the molasses mixture over the beans. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour.
5. Lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Continue cooking for 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the liquid in the pot begins to go below the surface of the beans, add more water, a little at a time. Keep the water and beans at the same level.
6. Uncover the pot and continue baking for 30 minutes or until the liquid thickens slightly. Do not add more water. (Total baking time is 5 hours.) Continue cooking if the beans are not tender or the liquid needs more time to reduce. Matt Barber