Makes 8 servings
- 1 lb dried Great Northern or navy beans
- 3 slices bacon, chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup ketchup, plus more as needed
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Soak the beans overnight in 2 quarts of cold water. Alternatively, quick soak them: Place the beans in a pot and cover with 3 quarts of cold water. Do not add any salt; this will toughen the beans. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the pot to sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans, and reserve the soaking water.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the bacon, onion, and drained beans in the bottom of an ovenproof clay bean pot (one that is safe for stovetop use as well; use a head diffuser if necessary) or any oven-safe pot, or in a slow cooker.
- In a separate pot, bring the molasses, brown sugar, mustard powder, bay leaf, and 3 1/2 cups of the bean soaking water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to establish a simmer, and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the mixture over the beans.
- Bring the bean mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and transfer to the oven. Or, if using a slow cooker, cover and bring the beans to a low simmer. Check the pot every 30 to 45 minutes; if the liquid has reduced below the beans, add more water to keep them covered. Beans cannot cook without liquid. Cook until the beans are completely tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours, then stir in the ketchup and vinegar. (Acid will firm up the beans, so be sure that the ketchup and vinegar are not added until the beans are completely tender.) Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust the seasoning as needed with additional sugar and/or ketchup.
Chef’s Note: Cook these beans, uncovered, in a smoker to give them a slightly smoky flavor. You can also place the beans under ribs or a pork butt during smoking to allow the beans to gain some barbecue flavor from the drippings.