This simple, hearty and delicious recipe is from Edna Lewis’ great book The Taste of Country Cooking.

To borrow the words of M.F.K. Fisher from the book jacket, “This book is fresh and pure, the way clean air can be, and water from a deep spring.  It is in the best sense American, with an innate dignity, and freedom from prejudice and hatred, and it is reassuring to be told again that although we may have lost some of all this simplicity, it still exits here… and may be attainable again.”  And that’s why I love this book so much.

Baked Beans
Serves 4 – 5 with leftovers

1 pound of dried pea beans or navy beans
4 cups bottled water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound streaky lean salt pork (uncured bacon)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 3-quart iron pot

Pick over and wash the beans, first in warm water to loosen any dirt sticking to them, then rinse in cold water.  set them to soak overnight in a big saucepan with enough water to just barely cover them.

In the morning drain away the water and add 4 cups of fresh, cold bottled water (or fresh spring water if you have it) and set the beans to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Then take the iron pot and place the finely chopped onion in the bottom.  Rinse the streak of lean off and leaving the rind on, score it and add it to the pot.  Then add the beans, along with the water they simmered in, the dry mustard, and the tomato puree, stirring well.

Cover, set into a preheated 250 degree oven, and cook at that temperature for 6 hours or longer.  During the cooking keep the water level even with the beans but not covering them.  Have a kettle of hot water handy so as not to slow down the cooking when you have to add some.

An hour before the cooking is finished, uncover the beans, but keep adding the water if necessary up to 1/2 hour before removing them.  They are delicious served with a green salad, crusty yeast bread, and sweet butter.  They can also be cooked ahead and reheated.