This recipe for maple baked beans has the same delicious flavor profile as the canned variety, but without the artificial ingredients. And they’re way yummier and heartier. Slow baking gives the beans this magical caramelized top to compliment the savoury-sweet sauce. This recipe tastes great paired with a simple arugula salad, tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan. I find the crunchy/bitter/sour combination cuts the sweetness beautifully.
The night before, sort and rinse beans, discarding any broken or blemished ones. Cover with cold water in a large bowl or pot and let sit overnight.
The next day, drain water and cover with fresh water. Move to stove top and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Drain and add about 5 cups of water. Bring to boil again; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 1½ hours.
Meanwhile (about an hour into the bean cooking), saute the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add the onions and garlic and continue to cook until the onion begins to soften and the bacon begins to crisp. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 250. (If you're in a hurry, you can crank that up to 350). Drain off bean liquid, reserving 1½ cups. (I usually remove the 1½ cups first and then pour the rest down the drain.)
Place the cooked beans, reserved liquid, and onion-bacon mixture (along with all pan drippings) into a large casserole. (It's nice if the casserole has a glass lid, but isn't necessary.) Add all remaining ingredients to casserole and mix well.
Cover with casserole lid, foil, or a cookie sheet and bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Again, if you don't have that much time, you can bake it for one hour at 350.) Finally, Increase heat to 350, uncover, stir, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until beans are very tender, the liquid has absorbed, and the top has caramelized.
For a vegetarian version, omit bacon and use 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil to saute the garlic and onion. I would personally miss the smokiness from the absent bacon, so I would recommend adding a teaspoon of liquid smoke.