Baked beans traditionally are made with navy beans. If you can't find them, substitute Great Northern beans, which are slightly larger and sweet-tasting. Make these in the oven or in a slow-cooker (see VARIATION, below). Freezing the beans makes them even more tender and creamy.
This recipe calls for dark maple syrup; it is available at Whole Foods Markets but is a little pricey, so a good-quality, flavorful regular maple syrup can be used instead.
Make Ahead: For best flavor, refrigerate the cooked, cooled beans overnight, then reheat in a covered saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until warmed through. (Or add chunky, cooked bits of bacon or bell pepper and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.) The cooked beans can be frozen in freezer-safe plastic food storage bags for up to 8 weeks. Defrost at room temperature for about 2 hours, or submerge the sealed bag of beans in a bowl of cool water for 45 minutes, changing the water every 15 minutes.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 1 pound dried navy or great northern beans, picked over to remove any extraneous bits (see headnote)
- 1/2 cup plain no-salt-added tomato sauce, such as Eden brand
- 2 tablespoons good-quality dark maple syrup (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses, such as Grandma's brand
- 2 teaspoons powdered mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups boiling water, plus hot water as needed
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 medium onion, cut in half
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with 8 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 1 hour. (Alternatively, soak the beans overnight in a bowl of cool water, making sure all the beans are covered.) Drain.
Transfer the drained beans to a Dutch oven. Add the tomato sauce, syrup, sugar, molasses, powdered mustard and ginger, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the boiling water and stir to mix well. Place over medium heat and stir until warmed through.
Insert a clove into each onion half and add to the beans. Increase the heat to medium-high; cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring once or twice.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Transer the Dutch oven to the oven and slow-roast for 7 to 8 hours, until the beans are tender. If possible, check the liquid level once or twice during cooking (the beans should be just covered); stir in 1 cup of water at a time as needed, making sure it is evenly distributed.
Discard the cloves (and onion, if desired). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature, then transfer 2-cup portions to 1-quart freezer-safe resealable plastic food storage bags. Seal, pressing as much air out of the bags as possible. Freeze flat on baking sheets until firm, then remove the baking sheets and stack the flat bags in the freezer for up to 8 weeks.
VARIATION: To prepare this recipe using a slow-cooker, transfer the drained beans to a slow-cooker with a capacity of at least 4 quarts. Combine the tomato sauce, syrup, sugar, molasses, powdered mustard and ginger, stirring to dissolve the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add to the beans, along with the boiling water. Stir, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 7 to 8 hours, until the beans are tender. Discard the cloves. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving or cooling to room temperature; proceed with storage steps.
Adapted from "Cook & Freeze: 150 Delicious Dishes to Serve Now and Later," by Dana Jacobi (Rodale, 2010).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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