Perfect for warming your home on a frigid day, these long-baked beans make a nourishing and inexpensive meal, especially with a side of brown rice or corn bread. I like to make them a day ahead and then dive into a big bowl of them after flavors are thoroughly married and the juices have thickened a bit; my husband likes them eaten right out of the oven as a side dish, usually drizzled with a bit of maple syrup or lightly freckled with brown sugar. Either way, they’re great during these ongoing polar vortices (is that what they’re calling cold snaps now?) when all you want to do is hibernate with a good movie and something to warm your belly.
2.5 cups navy beans
2-3 slices of bacon
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
1/4 c molasses
1.5 tsp salt
1 T mustard powder
3/4 cup hard cider (or one 12 oz. bottle)
1. In a large bowl, place the dry beans and enough water to cover by several inches and soak for 4-6 hours. Alternatively, place the beans and water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and remove from heat and let sit for an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large Dutch oven, bean crock, or other heavy cast iron, ceramic, or clay pot, lay the strips of bacon across the bottom. Place the onion halves on top of the bacon, then drain the beans and pour them over the onions.
3. Drizzle the molasses over the beans and salt and mustard powder, then add the cider and give the whole thing a quick, shallow stir just to distribute the molasses and mustard throughout the beans a bit (just don’t scrape bottom and move the bacon). If the cider doesn’t cover the beans, add enough water to the pot to cover the beans by half an inch.
4. Cover the pot with a heavy lid and bake for about 4 hours. After a couple of hours, start checking on the beans every so often to make sure they aren’t looking dry. If so, bring the water level back up to just level with the beans and continue cooking until the beans are tender. Once tender, shut off the oven and leave the beans in there, still covered in the pot, for an hour or two. I like these best on day 2, but they’re still great straight from the oven. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of maple syrup or a bit of brown sugar, if you’d like.