- 2 c dry navy beans
- 2 large white onions, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, divided
- 4-6 sprigs thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 t red pepper flakes
- 1/2 lb bacon or salt pork
- 3 chipotle chillies with sauce, chopped
- 1 large 28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped/crushed by hand
- 1/4 c brown sugar
- 1/4 c molasses
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t cayenne
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 2 t dry mustard
- 1/3 c cider vinegar
Soak beans overnight in lightly salted water. Contrary to popular opinion, salt does not make for tough beans. It actually helps them retain their shape and promotes a creamy final texture. Acid on the other hand, if added too early to older beans can cause the beans to not fully cook.
Drain and rinse beans. Put into large dutch oven and cover with cold water. Add in 2 smashed garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and the ends and skins of the diced onions. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour on low until the beans are nearly tender.
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and put beans back in their pot. Discard the onion ends, bay leaves and thyme sprigs, but remove any thyme leaves and put with the beans. Meanwhile cut the bacon into lardons and crisp up in a cast iron frying pan. Add bacon to beans and drain all but 2 T of the bacon fat from the pan. Sauté the onions and 2 remaining garlic cloves in the reserved bacon fat, adding the cumin, cayenne, paprika and dry mustard during the last 30-60 seconds of cooking. Add to beans along with the chillies, crushed/chopped tomatoes, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Add enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid that the beans are just barely covered.
Bake at 275F for 5 hours or until the beans are very soft (but not falling apart) and the liquid has thickened. Depending on the amount of liquid you add, you may want to only partially cover the bean pot, or even leave it totally uncovered for the whole time. If needed, add more liquid if it becomes too dry. Once the beans are done, turn up the heat to 400F and bake for 30 minutes more until the sauce is very thick and has caramelised on the top.