Soak beans: Place beans in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Turn heat off and let beans sit in the covered pot on the burner for 2 hours or overnight.
Cook beans: Drain and rinse beans and rinse the pot. Return beans to the pot and add enough fresh, cool water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, or until beans are tender but firm.
Position rack in middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325°F.
Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of the apple juice, ketchup, molasses, sugar, vinegar, and mustard in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in onions. Turn off the heat and let sit on the burner.
Drain and rinse beans and transfer to a large, ovenproof Dutch oven or bean pot. Add onion mixture and grind salt and pepper over the top. Mix well, cover, and bake for 3 to 4 hours, until beans are creamy, moist, and browned. Stir every hour and add apple juice as beans bake to keep them moist.
When beans are baked and removed from the oven, stir in vegan bacon (if using).
This is a slow-cooked dish, and while the oven does most of the work, you do need to set aside some time to soak and cook the beans before baking them in the oven for several hours. The easiest way that I have found is to soak the beans overnight, but you can start in the morning and have baked beans on the table by dinnertime. This dish is authentic, colonial-style baked beans, and there is no can or convenience you can use to substitute for the real thing.
You’ve Got Options
Hard or soft apple cider can stand in for the apple juice, or use a malty beer instead.
Makes 4 to 6 Side Servings
2 cups dried navy beans (about 1 pound)
3 to 4 cups apple juice, divided (see options)
½ cup ketchup or tomato sauce
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and pepper
8 to 10 slices store-bought vegan bacon, chopped (optional)
From “The Reducetarian Cookbook: 125 Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Omnivores, Vegans, and Everyone In-Between” by Reducetarian Foundation (Center Street, $21.99). Recipe developed by Pat Crocker. Photo by Ashleigh Amoroso.