A big pot of beans can be found bubbling at the bottom of many Kansas City barbecue pits, soaking up smoke and collecting drippings from the ribs and briskets sizzling above. Beans like these—tangy and studded with scraps of meat—can be delicious, but the truth is that most places start with canned pork 'n' beans. We went to barbecue master Paul Kirk's mother for the real thing.
1 lb. navy beans
1⁄2 cup dark brown sugar
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1⁄3 cup sorghum
1⁄4 lb. Burnt Ends or other barbecued meat scraps
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 tsp. dry mustard
1. Wash and sort beans, discarding any stones or shriveled beans. Put beans in large saucepan, cover with water (about 3 cups), and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, adding more water if necessary (up to 2 cups), until beans are tender, 1–1 1⁄2 hours. Drain, reserving water.
2. Preheat oven to 275°. Layer beans, sugar, onions, sorghum, and burnt ends or other meat scraps, ending with a top layer of beans, in a bean pot or ovenproof dish. Stir in soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, mustard, and salt to taste. Add bean water and up to 1 cup more water to cover. Bake uncovered for 5–6 hours, stirring occasionally. If beans start to get too brown on top, cover with a lid or aluminum foil.