Maple baked beans

April 2, 2008

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Serves 6

Dried beans aren't marked with a pull date, but fresher dried beans will take less time to cook than beans that were dried a year or two ago. In this method, the beans are simmered, then baked with a cover. They'll be saucy. If you prefer a drier pot of baked beans with a crusty top, continue cooking uncovered for another 30 minutes.

4 cups dried yellow eye, Jacob's cattle, white, or pinto beans, picked over for dirt and debris and soaked overnight in water to cover
1/2 pound bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1. Drain the beans and transfer to a large pot. Add enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the skins start to split and peel back. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

2. Set the oven at 250 degrees. Put the beans in 4-quart bean pot or heavy casserole. Stir in the bacon pieces, maple syrup, mustard powder, salt, and pepper. Add the reserved cooking liquid. The beans should be covered with water; add more water if necessary. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.

3. Bake the beans for 4 to 6 hours, tasting occasionally, or until the beans are soft enough to mash against the roof of your mouth. When they are ready, remove the cover, and return the beans to the oven. Continue cooking for 30 minutes more to thicken the liquid. Serve with brown bread and coleslaw. Jonathan Levitt