These saucy beans will become a year-round favorite. They’re a great foil for smoky barbecue, and they’re comforting in colder weather. Navy beans are commonly used, but in New England, creamy, flavorful heirloom beans like maroon-eyed soldier beans, yellow-eyed beans, and maroon-and-white Jacob’s cattle are popular. They may need to cook longer.
Note: Several readers have given us feedback concerning the recipe’s cooking time, so we’ve provided additional tips from our Test Kitchen to ensure your beans come out perfect:
- Buy the freshest beans you can find. We suggest buying beans from a bulk bin at a natural foods store, if possible. If you buy them from a grocery store, a bigger, busier grocery store is preferable. Chances are better that the beans haven’t been sitting around long.
- Sometimes gas ovens cycle on and off and have trouble maintaining a low temperature; if your beans are not tender after 6 hours, your oven could be a factor.
- When you open the oven door to check on the beans, you’re lowering the temperature. Check your beans sparingly—and when you do—test more than one bean for doneness. Beans cook at different rates, so try a few.
- Finally, we know it’s hard to wait after smelling the beans baking for hours, but resting the beans for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving is essential for optimum sauciness.
1 lb. (2-1/2 cups) dried navy beans, picked through for stones
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. salt pork or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1x1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup robust unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbs. ground mustard
1/2 oz. kosher salt (1-1/2 Tbs. Diamond Crystal or 1 Tbs. Morton)
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Tip:Molasses helps the beans keep their shape. Its acidity makes the beans cook slower, so they don't fall apart during the long baking time that gives them all their flavor. Use robust unsulfured molasses, sometimes labeled as dark or full body. It is more concentrated and caramelized than mild molasses, yet lighter, and less bitter than blackstrap molasses.
Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover by about 2 inches, and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours. (Or bring the beans and water to a boil in a large pot, remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.) Drain and rinse the beans.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 250°F.
Spread the onion in an even layer on the bottom of a 5-quart Dutch oven or similar heavy-duty pot. Scatter the salt pork on top and then the beans. In a large measuring cup, combine the molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper with 5 cups water. Gently pour over the beans.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and bake uncovered until the beans are fully tender, 4 to 6 hours—it’s OK if they still look watery at this point. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours to thicken the liquid before serving. Serve, or cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.
Make Ahead Tips
The baked beans can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
nutrition information (per serving):
3.5, Fat Calories
35, Saturated Fat
10, Monounsaturated Fat
43, Polyunsaturated Fat
Photo: Scott Phillips