I was very excited when Cook's Illustrated, the Boston based purveyors of cooking geekery, published a recipe for a faster cooking version of the beans with no hipster ingredients, as well as a recipe for brown bread. I'm gluten free again since my knee has been bothering me, so I did not make the bread.
As with most Cook's Illustrated recipes, there are a few tricks and secret ingredients. The trick here is to soak the beans in salt water for at least 8 hrs, and then do a combination of cooking it in the oven and on the stove. This reduces the cooking time to appx. 3.5 hours instead of all day. You're still fighting with acidic ingredients (brown sugar and molasses) but the salted soak brings a lot of bean softening firepower. The secret ingredient is a little bit of soy sauce for umani notes and depth. Other than that, there are no hard to find ingredients, no wasted beer, minimal active time and no time consuming hacks. There is even a discussion of bean blowout, which isn't nearly as funny as it should be. When I take over Cook's Illustrated I will be sure to include a lot more fart jokes.
Cook's Illustrated Boston Baked Beans, now with more fart jokes
1 lb navy beans, picked over and rinsed
1 1/2 tbsp salt
6 oz salt pork, sliced into 3 pieces
1 onion, halved
1/2 cup molasses*
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
*use maple syrup instead of molasses for a different flavor
Combined dried beans with 2 qt water and 1.5 tbsp salt. Let it sit at least 8 hours or overnight
Preheat oven to 300F. Rinse and drain beans and transfer to large dutch oven (because of course you need a dutch oven for this...). Add salt pork, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, dried mustard, pepper, and bay leaf. Add 1 quart water. It should cover the beans by appx 1/2 inch. Add more if needed. Bring mix to a boil. Cover and put it in the oven for 2 hours. After 1 hour, stir it around and add enough water to cover beans, if necessary. After 2 hours, remove cover and cook for another hour. Scrape down sides and remove onion, bay leaf, and salt pork. Give them to the person in your household who wants to eat them.
The beans came out pretty well, and I really liked how hands off the recipe is. They reminded me of the baked beans they served at brunch at an Irish pub in Boston, so I even ate some for breakfast. They were sweet and had good flavor. They retained their shape almost too well - no bean blowout. Due to the lack of bean blowout, the Dutch oven was easy to clean.... All fart jokes aside, I miss the slight thickening effect from some blowout.
We really liked them, so in the interest of science I made another batch two days later. This time I substituted dark maple syrup for the molassses. They were much mellower and less Beano was needed. I will probably use bacon for the maple syrup ones next time.
Dutch Oven Bean Blowout Report: low in the recipe, high in the Old Biddy household. Get your Beano for these bad boys!