The secret to great baked beans is dried beans (Great Northern or navy beans, or an heirloom variety such as soldier beans, yellow eye, Marfax, or Jacob's Cattle; for heirlooms, go to www.osbornefamilyfarm.com, a Maine grower). Soak them overnight or use this quick-soaking method, which takes 1 hour. Older versions of this dish call for lots of molasses and salt pork. Here, we tuck pieces of bacon into the beans with enough molasses to give them a fine taste but not overwhelm the dish.
|1||pound (2 cups) dried white beans|
|2||medium onions, coarsely chopped|
|¼||cup dark brown sugar|
|1||tablespoon tomato paste|
|¼||pound piece slab
bacon, cut into strips
|4||cups water, or more
1. Soak the beans overnight, drain, and rinse them. Or, in a large, heavy pot, combine the beans and enough water to cover them by several inches. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the beans sit for 1 hour.
2. Set the oven at 300 degrees.
3. Drain and rinse the beans and return to the pot. Add the onions, brown sugar, molasses, tomato paste, mustard, and bacon. Add the 4 cups water, salt, and pepper. Return the beans to a boil. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.
4. Cook the beans for 4 hours, checking them every hour to see if the pan seems dry. Add more water as needed, ½ cup at a time.
5. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like, and let the beans sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Note: If making in advance, the beans will thicken on standing. To reheat, add more water and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until hot. Sheryl Julian