Mother to two of the most fantastic kids I’ve ever cared for, Alisa Palmer put me in touch with her dad, Marven, who was willing to share this recipe of his mother’s with me. (He’d made it once when visiting, and years later I still remembered the heavenly smell as the beans cooked for hours.) Of course I had to find a replacement for the pork they use, but otherwise it’s pretty true to the original.
This is slow food, New Brunswick (turned vegan whole-foods) style. Serve with whole grain toast and a fresh salad.
1 lb (2 1/3 cups) navy beans (or yellow-eye or soldier beans), soaked in plenty of cold water overnight (for 6-10 hours)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup or 1 small can tomato paste (optional)
¼ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
¼ cup pumpkin seed butter
2 tbsp. organic brown sugar or maple syrup
1 ½ - 2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root or ½ tsp ginger powder
1 whole chipotle pepper (or ½ tsp powder) (optional, but highly recommended)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Drain the soaking water off the beans and rinse. Put them in a 5-quart pot over medium heat, add 6 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil, skim off as much of the foam as you can, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the beans begin to plump up (lose their wrinkled look). Add the onion, tomato paste, molasses, pumpkin seed butter, sweeteners, salt, mustard, ginger, chipotle and black peppers. Stir, then pour in an additional 1 ½ cups filtered water. Cover and slide in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300oF, and bake for about 4 hours longer (the original recipe says to be sure to check them “mid-afternoon” – it’s likely that Grandmother Palmer always served dinner, at 6pm), until the beans are soft and there’s just the right amount of sauce (which is, of course, up to you, but know that you can add water ½ cup at a time, as needed).