Why pre-soak the beans? You don't have to (see this great Russ Parsons article in the LA Times about why you don't need to soak beans), but not doing so in this recipe will increase the cooking time. With the beans pre-soaked, they'll still take 8 hours to cook and soften in a slow-cooker. Once beans come in contact with the molasses, the sugar in the molasses will keep the beans firm. That's why they take so long to cook.
- 1 pound (2 to 2 1/4 cups) dry white beans such as Navy beans or Great Northern beans (can also use kidney beans)
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3-4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 cups hot water
- 1/2 pound salt pork (can sub bacon), cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, (1 1/2 cups) chopped
1 Soak beans in water: Place beans in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Soak overnight and drain. Alternatively, bring a pot with the beans covered with 2 inches of water to a boil, remove from heat and let soak for a hour, then drain.
2 Mix molasses, brown sugar, mustard, ground cloves with water: Whisk together the molasses, brown sugar, mustard, and ground cloves with 3 cups of hot water.
3 Add ingredients to slow-cooker, layering them, starting with the salt pork: Line the bottom of a slow-cooker (or a Dutch oven if you are cooking in the oven) with half of the salt pork (pick the fattiest pieces). Layer over with half of the drained beans. Add all of the chopped onion in a layer.
Top with another layer of beans and the remaining salt pork. Pour the molasses water mixture over the beans to just cover the beans.
4 Slow cook until beans are tender: Cover and cook in a slow-cooker on the low setting for 8 hours (or in a 250°F oven), until the beans are tender. Check the water level a few hours in, and if the beans need more water, add some. Add additional salt to taste if needed.
Note that fresher beans will cook faster than older beans. Your beans may be ready in less than 8 hours, or they may take longer. Best the next day.
Serve with Boston brown bread.