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I am not one of those jumping for joy at the arrival of fall. I am way too much in love with summer’s carefree bliss, even if it’s no longer really carefree because I’m no longer an 8-year-old with 2 months off from school to spend just hanging around doing whatever I feel like. 

But I am not immune to the charms of crisp, cool weather. And anyway, I can only be sad for 5 minutes in my kitchen or in my knitting corner, both places reliably, always cheering. Out with grilling and tiny objects made of cotton, bring on braising and big piles of wool (temperature blanket languishing in the corner, I see you).  

This fall, as usual, on the first cool day I made these braised cranberry beans—inspired by the great Marcella Hazan. I love these beans for their flavor and beautiful color. This recipe makes a beautiful pot of beans in a little cooking broth, vegetal and earthy, flavored by a few aromatics. A gentle nudge into a new season. But first things first. 

Brine those beans.

For 1 lb of beans, cover with water by 3 inches, stir in 3 tablespoons of kosher salt and let sit at room temperature for 8–10 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and proceed.* It goes like this!


1 lb dried cranberry beans, brined and soaked overnight and rinsed

1 small onion, peeled and halved

4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly smashed

1 stalk celery, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary

1 small bunch fresh thyme

1 parmesan rind (optional)

¼ lb pancetta, bacon or ham (optional)

1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh, canned, or Pomi brand

½ cup olive oil, plus more for garnish

Minced parsley for garnish


Put brined, rinsed beans in a 4 quart heavy bottomed pot and cover with cold water by about an inch. Bring to a boil uncovered and then immediately lower to a simmer. After about 5 minutes skim off and scum.

Add remaining ingredients—except tomatoes—to the pot, making sure they are submerged. If you plan to remove the pancetta before serving leave it in a whole slice. If you plan to keep the pancetta in the dish, cut it into dice before adding it to the pot. Cover partially and continue to simmer at lowest heat until the beans are almost tender but still a little al dente. Check on them regularly, adding more water if necessary. As you know, cooking times for beans can vary wildly. You don’t want these to be mushy so test one at the 35-minute mark.

When you deem them to be close to done stir in the tomatoes. Taste for salt and pepper and add more if you like. Simmer further until the beans are al dente. Remove herb stems and parmesan rind. 

Dish them into a bowl with a bit of cooking broth, more olive oil, and parsley. Serve with the best crusty bread you can find (or make!).

*I’m loving this technique, which yields beans that cook evenly with tender skins intact. They are not salty but their innate flavor is enhanced. Once rinsed they are gently braised with vegetables, herbs, a parmesan rind and pancetta. Obviously bacon or ham would be great, as would omitting any meat at all for a lovely vegetarian version. Leftover beans are great reheated and spooned into a warm tortilla or added to a pan of sautéed greens. 

Offer ends today! To any order that includes Shawl Balls or Yarn Bombs, we’ll add a free ebook download of Field Guide No. 5: Sequences. Learn more about this month’s MDK Gems here.

About The Author

For Sarah Ross, everyday cooking is about winging it—with a classic or an old favorite recipe given to her by a friend. These are the recipes that get stained with spills from being on repeat, the ones to share.


  • I frequently cook dried beans, and adding salt to the soaking water was new to me, I have to try it! Why using kosher salt, unless you are Jewish? There are lots of other kinds of salt, equally good and more afordable.

    Also, my experience is that beans take much much longer to cook than 35 minutes, unless you’re using a pressure cooker (which I always do).

    • Your question about kosher salt is a great question! Kosher salt is a coarser salt than table salt and has a much gentler flavor. It is also much lighter than table salt so 2 tablespoons of kosher salt has a lot less salt than 2 tablespoons of table salt – in fact about 1/2. So if you replace kosher salt with table salt, use half or it will be really, really salty.

      I get my kosher salt in the grocery store and have never found it too expensive but I live in the US where it is commonly available. If you live somewhere else, that might not be the case. Kosher salt is also purer than table salt and does not include iodine so you don’t get the bite than often happens with table salt. As to it’s Jewish-ness, Jewish dietary guidelines say that you can’t eat meat with blood in it and way back in the day, what we now call kosher salt was the best salt to draw the blood out of meat. The process is called “koshering” meat, thus the salt is traditionally processed following the guidelines.

      All that said, there are lots of wonderful salts out there from the most precious and expensive sea salts to the most everyday table salt and you should use what you like. Just remember to check for the proper ratio to whatever is called for in the recipe.

      The fact that I am tearing my house apart right now looking for either of the two balls of Felted Tweed in the color Seasalter is not lost on me.

      • Thank you Karen, exactly right.

    • You’re testing a bean at 35 minutes.

  • Hope I’m allowed a shout-out to the heirloom bean company “Rancho Gordo”, it’s a great online site to find everything you ever wanted to know about dry beans.
    Just like I know a great site to go to and refer people to about yarn and knitting – It’s”MDK”, of course!
    I have no connection to either site except finding great info and products and wanting to pass that on to like minds.

    • As a Napa resident, and not far from the Rancho Gordo shop, yes, buy from them if only for fresh product that cooks up reliably but also you may find everything they support is doggone good. Good as the beans.

    • I love Rancho Gordo too. A splurge but well worth it and I find they cook up much faster as they are fresher (ie haven’t been on the grocery shelf for years).

    • I have some Rancho Gordo Cranberry beans in my pantry and a perfect reason to try them.

    • Love Rancho Gordo beans! Love MDK!

  • I grew up on ham hocks and beans and have been cooking beans since I was a kid. I love all varieties. However my husband cooked them for the first time lately and learned the hard way why you don’t just put them in your chili to cook after soaking all night. No matter how long he cooked them, they never softened. Turns out tomatoes were the culprit. In all my years of cooking beans, I had never added them to something like chili without pre-cooking.

    • Acid (in this case from the tomatoes) keeps beans from getting soft. That’s why the recipe adds them after the beans are nearly done.

      • Yep, I learned the tomato lesson the hard way.

  • Yum!

  • I had to log in so I could save this article. These beans look so delicious!!! Thanks Sarah for the recipe!!

    • Aww thank you and happy braising.

  • This sounds and looks delicious! It’s on my menu plan for next week. Thanks for the recipe and for your wonderful site. I love MDK.

    • As you can imagine I had a lot of beans around after testing the recipe. Haven’t gotten sick of them yet.

  • Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you for the really helpful in progress shots, just the right number.

    • Good to know they are helpful, thank you and enjoy!

  • Yumm! This sounds delicious. And have long been a fan of Marcella Hazan!!

    • Did you know Rancho Gordo has a bean named after Marcella? I have it bean my “queue” to try next.

  • Thank you for the recipe and the cooking tips. Sounds delicious and perfect for fall. I am not an experienced cook so I really appreciate all of the info. I love you guys too!

    • Let us know how it goes!

  • Both my husband and I love beans and I cook them often in Fall and Winter. I’ve never cooked cranberry beans but this recipe sounds delicious. When we first moved to Colorado I had a terrible time cooking beans at altitude. At my house water boils at about 202° so everything takes longer and needs more water. I can’t wait to see what brining vs soaking does for the beans.

    • Let me know what happens, I’m curious about the altitude. Hope the brining speeds this up.

  • Wow, just never know when something new and cool will appear. thanks

  • It’s Yom Kippur … a serious fast day. Wow. A food post with pictures.

    • In my community, people who observe the fast are offline and in the synagogue for most of the day on Yom Kippur, and if out in the world I think we expect the world to be going about business as usual. Your comment got me to open up my New York Times from yesterday, just to confirm that the Wednesday food section was still there!

      • yep .. why I read it at night apres fasting… glad I didn’t open it in the morning! I just laughed at the irony of it… (can’t make it that way anyway … no pork products in this house)
        Maybe next year dairy kugel recipes … the day before!

  • Thanks! I’ve been looking for a recipe for cranberry beans, and this sounds delicious!

  • This sounds wonderful. I want to modify the recipe for my Instant Pot pressure cooker. It’s the only way I have ever been able to cook beans to perfection. Thanks for the tip about salting the soaking water.

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