Baked beans are part of my heritage in two ways. They're a New England thing, and my paternal grandfather's people started out there when they stepped off the Mayflower nearly 400 years ago. And they are something my dear Aunt Sissy (who died in 2010) made regularly for family and friends.
She used a pottery bean crock, similar to this Brown 3-Quart Ceramic Baked Bean Pot. I don't have such a pot, so I just use my multipurpose CorningWare French White 2-1/2-Quart Round Casserole Dish with Glass Cover. It works great, even if it doesn't look as "authentic." And you do need a proper dish in which to bake the beans if you are actually baking your baked beans. Aunt Sissy was just about the only person I've ever known who did. Most people do a stovetop version with canned beans.
I've deviated from Aunt Sissy's recipe before by cooking the beans entirely in the oven rather than an hour on the stovetop followed by time in the oven. But the beans are every bit as good when started on the stove, so I'm going to tell you her way instead. The end result is perfect.
In the UK, baked beans are an essential element of the full English breakfast and of the comfort food favorite beans on toast. They are not baked but rather canned beans in a tomato sauce with about half the sugar of canned baked beans in the US.
Aunt Sissy's Baked Beans (more widely known as Nana's Baked Beans)
(Makes 8 servings)
1 1-pound package navy or small white beans
6 cups water
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
1/2 cup finely minced onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/4 cups ketchup (Muir Glen organic)
1 Rinse and pick over beans to remove any debris. In 3-quart saucepan, soak beans overnight (8 to 24 hours) in 2 quarts of water salted with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt.
2 Drain and rinse soaked beans, and add 6 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Drain in colander over a large bowl, reserving the liquid.
3 Cut 2 strips of bacon the diameter of your casserole; reserve for garnish. By hand or in the food processor, finely mince the remaining bacon. In skillet, cook bacon until crisp; add to beans. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of bacon fat (or add oil to make 1 tablespoon fat) and saute chopped onion until soft; add to beans.
4 Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add remaining ingredients to beans; stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into 2.5-quart lidded casserole. Add enough of the reserved liquid to cover the beans (In my CorningWare French White 2-1/2-Quart Round Casserole Dish with Glass Cover, that was 1 1/4 cups).
5 Cross 2 strips of bacon on top of the beans. Put on the lid. If you want to keep your lid clean, cover the casserole with foil before putting the lid on. Bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees.