I grew up eating a lot of baked beans. They are probably one of the most popular French Canadian meals ever. Driving through new England you will no doubt see several churches with signs out front welcoming people in for a bean supper on Saturdays. It's a cheap meal that can feed the masses and also happens to taste great. In my family there was always some friend or family home with a pot of beans baking all day filling the house with amazing earthy aromas.
For as many people there are in the World there are as many recipe variations to this traditional meal. This just happens to be one I like and based on the flavors I grew up with. I like too experiment a little too without going to crazy because after all this is one of those very nostalgic meals that makes me think of home and my childhood. I do love how baked beans vary by US region. "Boston" or New England baked beans tend to be sweet ans savory.
You could argue all day on the best bean as well but typically navy or pinto work well. In Maine we grow a yellow eyed bean that is great for baked beans but rarely see them outside of the state.
I will mention some of the variations at the end but this basic recipe is near perfect as it is.
You Will Need:
1 pound of beans (Pinto or Navy but feel free to experiment with others). These should be soaked overnight or softened using a quick method in a pressure cooker.
1 medium yellow onion cut in half
6 whole cloves
8 oz. chopped Morningstar bacon (or real bacon if you eat meat)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup raw molasses
2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1 TBSP cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp liquid smoke
Bring the beans and 10 cups of water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid, and let the beans sit for 1 1⁄2 hours. (This "quick soak" produces effects similar to those achieved by soaking the beans in water overnight.) Drain the beans in a colander, and discard the cooking liquid.
Preheat oven to 250-300. Stick the cloves into the onion halves. In a large dutch oven combine all ingredients except ketchup and vinegar. Add 2 cups water or as a variation 1/2 cup water and 1 can of Guinness or other dark stout.
Cover and bake for about 3 hours. Add the vinegar and ketchup and continue to bake for 3-4 more hours. If you still have a lot of liquid remove cover half way through baking. The sauce in the beans should be a little syrupy and thick and beans should be tender. Cooking time may vary.
**A crockpot can be used in place of oven baking but my personal opinion is that oven baking tastes better and thickens the sauce better
***Water can be used instead of cider in which case I recommend adding 1/2 Cup of brown sugar.