Different kinds of beans cook at different rates, so it's best to prepare them in separate pans (working in batches if necessary). The salad can be made with just a few types instead of all five, as long as the total amount of dried beans still measures 2 1/2 cups.
Our recipe calls for light molasses. These days, however, most labels don't specify the type, but light and dark molasses can usually be used interchangeably. And we suggest using unsulfured molasses (any type), which has a purer flavor than sulfured.
Soak the beans the night before you cook them. The next day, begin cooking seven hours before you plan to eat. Beans cooked in a six-quart terra-cotta bean pot have a richer flavor and finer texture, but you can also use a cast-iron Dutch oven.
Traditionally, these beans were cooked in a low-heat oven almost all day. This on-the-stove version cuts the time in half without compromising flavor. Customary additions such as molasses and salt pork give the beans a sweet and smoky flavor.