1 cup dry starchy beans, rinsed (Pinto are a good choice.)
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon tamari
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Spices (your preference):
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika (or smoked paprika, ancho, chipotle, cayenne)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Bring beans and about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a heavy pot or dutch oven, on stovetop. Lower heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft. (Adding salt to the boiling water will keep the beans more intact but I don’t do this because I like them a bit mushy.) Add water to keep level about an inch above beans. Do not drain beans.
2. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
3. Stir together maple syrup, tomato paste, molasses, mustard, tamari, and vinegar. Add to beans along with onions and peppers. Add spices.
4. Cover pot and bake for 2 to 3 hours (depends on how mushy you like your beans). Check often to stir and add water if getting too dry.
This recipe requires about 4 or 5 hours cooking time, compared to 8-12 hours or overnight, which is more traditional.* You can cut the time by precooking the beans on the stovetop before adding maple syrup, tomatoes, vinegar and other ingredients that slow bean softening. Daniel Gritzer explains this and much more in his post:
How to Make Boston Baked Beans, the Low, Slow, Old-Fashioned Way, Serious Eats, 2016
You can also cook everything on the stovetop and not use the oven. Just add the ingredients in number 3 above as you would when the beans are soft, then continue simmering for another hour or so. I’ve done both oven and stovetop and can comfortably say that all-stovetop is not inferior.
A tradition in Maine, of “bean hole” cooking, may have originated with the native Penobscot people and was later practiced in logging camps. A fire would be made in a stone-lined pit and allowed to burn down to hot coals, and then a pot with 11 pounds of seasoned beans would be placed in the ashes, covered over with dirt, and left to cook overnight or longer. These beans were a staple of Maine’s logging camps, served at every meal.