Sunday, August 21, 2011
This North country family recipe is adapted from the one used by my Grandmother Zahn. The pieces of salt pork she added for flavor have been replaced with salt, butter and dry mustard. It is still a very simple recipe and I think the end result is as good as the original.
16 oz. bag dried navy beans (Note: check the date to use the freshest ones available and find a brand that gives consistent results -- I like Goya)
7 cups water
1 medium-large onion (vidalia or white are best), sliced thinly
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. Coleman's dry English mustard
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Additional sugar for sprinkling on top prior to baking
Remove dried beans from bag; rinse in a colander, sorting to remove imperfect beans and possible small bits that might be pebbles (really -- I have seen this).
Empty rinsed and sorted beans into a large (6-7 quart) pot. Add 7 cups water. On high heat, bring the water to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 1 hour. (This is the quick soak method).
After 1 hour, drain the beans and then add them back to the pot. Add another 7 cups water. Bring beans and water to a boil over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, add the other ingredients, stirring occasionally. When the beans have come to a full boil, reduce the heat to bubbling ( a little more than a simmer). Cook like this for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans have absorbed most of the water and the rest of the liquid, which should barely cover the beans, turns milky colored and soupy textured. (Notes: (1) You may need to adjust the heat downwards to more of a low simmer if the water level gets too low and the beans are in danger of sticking or burning, and (2) You may need to add more water if the beans are still not tender, but the water level is too low -- add a little water at a time, 1/4 to 1/2 cup). Also, while the beans are cooking, you can adjust the salt, to taste.
When you have tasted the beans to be tender, and the water which probably just barely covers the beans is that milky, soupy color and consistency, remove from the burner. Turn the beans into a pyrex, or other, baking casserole dish. Sprinkle with a bit more granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon, on top to brown. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the oven when done and let cool a bit before serving.