Here's a recipe for baked beans I tried out the other night, adapted to be vegetarian. I'm surprised by how much flavor they had, even without all the pork. I'll post this recipe both ways, and I should mention that it was a christmas gift from my father, tucked inside a bean crock he threw on his potter's wheel. (I come from a long line of crafty.) If you don't happen to have your own personal potter to make you these things, they're easy enough to find elsewhere. I would recommend doing it in a crock or casserole dish of some kind, however. To paraphrase Alice Waters, "Beans just taste better when they're cooked in clay."
Nellie's Baked Beans
1 lb white, navy or other beans
1 pork shank
1 t. sald
1 small onion, diced
1/4 c. molasses
1 t. dry mustard
2 T brown sugar
3 pieces lean bacon (or about 1/4 cup guanciale or slab bacon)
Wash and pick over beans. Put in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil for two minutes, then let stand for one hour. (Alternatively, cover beans with twice their amount in water and let sit for several hours/overnight).
Cut the pork into pieces. Drain beans into a large bowl, reserving liquid. Add salt and onions to beans. Mix together molasses, mustard, and brown sugar.
Put a 1 piece of pork at the bottom of the crock. Turn beans into pot. Add molasses mixture 1 C. bean liquid and stir gently. Bury rest of pork just under beans. Bacon strips can be rolled and tucked beneath beans, slab bacon or guanciale cut and buried as the pork. Add enough of the remaining soaking liquid to cover the top of your beans. Bake, covered, at 275 degrees for 6-8 hours, depending on your soaking time. Check liquid levels every hour or so. For the last hour of cooking, remove the cover and let the beans brown.
Adapted Vegetarian Baked Beans
1 pound pinto beans
1 T. salt
1 small white onion, chopped
1/4 cup honey
3 T. unrefined cane sugar
1 t. mustard seeds
1 T. good-quality prepared mustard (we used homemade!)
1 t. coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
Soak and prepare beans as dictated above. Add salt and onion to drained beans. Turn into cookware, and add all ingredients except bay leaf. The coriander seeds can be ground or left whole. Bury the bay leaf under the surface of the beans, and fill with enough liquid to cover. Follow cooking instructions dictated above.
Tip: Baked beans are a slow process, there's no way around that. But if you let them cook at 325 for four or five hours hours, the beans will be almost the same as at 275 for eight hours. In general, it's best to make these the day before if you plan on eating them for lunch, or get an early start for dinner.