So, I tried making baked beans again, today. (This recipe: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/m
The first was this: I didn't just soak them overnight, I also boiled them for a while. Change #2: I didn't make them in the slow cooker, and end up with way too much liquid. I used my cast iron dutch oven.
Only two changes, but such a difference! Although, I still needed more water in the soaking and more in the boiling. (The beans absorbed nearly all the water overnight, so the top ones didn't look soaked enough, and while there was plenty of cooking liquid left, they would have benefited from another ten minutes of boiling.) I took off the rind of the salt pork, and sliced it thin, and then chunked up the slices. I used good dry mustard, and grade B maple syrup, as well as dark brown sugar. I ended up liking the flavor of the sauce, very much.
The funny thing is that I always think my Lodge dutch oven is much smaller than it is, so when I put my 1 lb of beans and 3/4 of a pound of salt pork in, it only filled the pot about halfway. I kept thinking it didn't look like enough. Of course, it was a lot, and they're a little rich.
I also kept thinking about Laura Ingalls Wilder, describing her mother's baked beans in The Long Winter. She boiled the beans, and they all drank the cooking liquid as broth for lunch. Then she took the boiled beans, put them in a pan, decorated them with "scrolls of molasses" and a "bit of salt pork" and put them in the oven to bake slowly for dinner, and then, that was all they had for dinner. (Eating these beans tonight, I could understand that. They're very hearty and leave your stomach all warm and full.) I've never been much of a bean fan. My mom never made them. But I keep reading about French beans, cooked with lots of pork and duck, or I try these beans and think that maybe my antagonistic feelings about beans are some prejudice I picked up from someone else, because really, I quite like them. When I can remember to make myself eat them.