This recipe is for traditional Maine or New England baked beans, none of that crap with the soggy little beans in a tomato or bbq sauce. You can use a crock pot, do it in the oven inside a bean pot; you can even dig a hole in the ground and cook it in there for several days (hardcore and best, but I'm too lazy and impatient). So I use a crock pot. You'll only need about a half hour or so of prep time but you'll need to cook them all day.
Ingredients: One pound Jacobs Cattle beans, onion, 1/2 pound salt pork, 1/2 cup of BROWN sugar, 2/3 cup molasses, 1/4 cup of real maple syrup (honey works good too), 3 teaspoons dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste.I think using the right beans is one of the keys. I prefer Jacobs Cattle or Yellow Eye or the like. You can use pinto beans, I suppose, but see above and don't tell me if you did...it saddens me deeply. Let me amend that. If you want real baked beans, then find the good dry beans I've mentioned. Don't cheat and use canned beans or whatever. If you want it to taste right, like it's supposed to, then you need to start with the right ingredients. There's no point in doing it, otherwise.
You should check the bag of beans because occasionally there's a pebble or a bad bean. Then put them in a large bowl of water and soak them overnight.
In the morning parboil the beans until you can blow the skin off one, about a half hour, which gives you time to get your ingredients together. You'll need some salt pork (no bacon...this isn't breakfast), which you'll need to cut through the rind side about a half inch in a waffle design so it'll fall apart nicely when everything's cooked. Quarter at least one onion and place it in the bottom of the pot. Then drain and add your parboiled beans. Place the salt pork on top. In one pint of boiling water add your molasses, syrup, dry mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. I like mine peppery. I've been known to use Montreal steak pepper. But at least 3 teaspoons of pepper. Pour this over the beans, adding more boiling water, if necessary, to cover the beans...usually an extra half pint to pint. Then cook on low in the crock pot or 300 degrees in the oven for at least 6 hours.
When at all possible serve with red casing hotdogs and brown bread, also often served in Maine with coleslaw. Since you're going to fart like crazy after eating them, plus the cabbage in the cole slaw, you might as well go all out and wash it down with a hearty ale. You won't have any trouble being left alone after that.
And by the way, if I find out that you put ketchup on my beans, I'll hunt you down and shoot you! Ketchup is for hamburgers, meatloaf and bad french fries.
UPDATE 7/25/10: Made a large batch (8X above) for my daughter's wedding and have a couple of important notes. As Shelly has said, it's my best batch yet and I attribute that to using Grandma's Molasses, which was used because it's gluten free. It's stronger in my opinion and worth using. But if you're making this recipe for the first time and using Grandma's, I'd use 1/2 cup of molasses and perhaps a little more water. It's always to taste anyway. For this batch we ended up using yellow eye and great northern beans, which are smaller but I felt they needed extra soaking and parboiling compared to the soldier beans.
UPDATE 3/8/11: Made a batch at my mother's this past weekend, this time cooking them in a gas oven using a cast iron dutch oven...another significant improvement, which is hard to believe as good as they already were.