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Ross's Minnesota maple baked beans

Substituting Minnesota maple syrup for the traditional brown sugar makes smooth and creamy baked beans with a little more complex flavor, I think. This recipe also skips the usual catchup--which avoids that slightly icky preserved taste.

This recipe cleverly deals with the risk that your crock pot won't cook the beans, even after a day's effort. The trick: cover with aluminum foil.

Note: Vegetarians can skip the salt pork.

Based on a recipe from Cook's Country. Serves four average eaters.


1 pound great northern or other basic beans. Rinse and soak beans overnight.

1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

2 bay leaves.

4 ounces salt pork.
You can buy this vacuum packed, pretty cheap. Use what you need, freeze
the rest for next time. Bacon is not a good substitute--it gives the beans
a smoky taste I find less attractive.

1 onion, minced.

1/4 cup mild molasses.

1/4 cup Minnesota (or other) maple syrup, plus two tablespoons.

2 cups boiling water.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.

2 teaspoon cider vinegar.


Turn crock pot to high to preheat.

Add beans and about eight cups water to large stove-top pot, along with the soda and bay leaves. Bring pre-soaked beans to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes. Clean up foam that inevitably boils over onto stove.

Meanwhile, chop salt pork into lardons (little rectangles), and fry until somewhat crisp, about 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, cook another five minutes until lightly browned.

Drain the beans, toss into the crock pot, along with the salt pork/onion, maple syrup, molasses, and two cups boiling water. Stir.

Cover beans with aluminum foil, tucking tightly around sides of crock pot. Return lid to pot, cook on low all day, about nine hours. You can rush it to five or six hours by turning the crock pot to high.

At dinnertime, turn off the crock pot and check the beans. They will be nice and creamy. Really.

To brighten up the taste, add the 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Dijon mustard and vinegar, along with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand a quarter hour or so to meld seasoning.

Leftovers can be frozen and later reheated in the microwave for a quick week-night dinner. Add a little water; they'll be almost as good as the first night.