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Recipe for Boston baked beans

STYLING BY SHERYL JULIAN AND VALERIE RYAN; CHARLIE MAHONEY FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Serves 8

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
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon
dry mustard
¼ pound piece slab
bacon, cut into strips
4 cups water, or more
if necessary
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

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.

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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