Paul Kirk's 89-year-old mother taught him this recipe for soft red-brown beans in a brothy liquid. At New York City's RUB, co-owned by a Kirk acolyte, the beans are cooked in the same smokers as the briskets, in pans placed underneath the meat to catch the drippings. The Burnt Ends in this recipe are optional, but add a nice smoky flavor to the beans along with the bacon.
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2 pounds dried navy beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
Put the beans in a large enameled cast-iron casserole and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook until the skins on the beans curl up when you blow on them, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300°. Stir the onion, garlic, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt, Worcestershire and mustard into the beans, then nestle in the bacon. Cover and bake for 3 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to cover the beans by 1/2 inch.
Stir in the Burnt Ends (if using), then bake the beans uncovered about 1 1/2 hours longer, until richly browned on top. Remove the bacon piece, chop into cubes and return to the beans before serving.
The baked beans can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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