Put the beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with water by 3 inches. Allow to soak for at least six hours or overnight. Drain the beans and transfer to a medium saucepan.
Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot and lay the cedar branch over the beans. Set the pot over high heat, bringing to a boil. Cover and simmer until beans are very soft. Begin tasting after 25 minutes of simmering. Remove and discard cedar. Drain and reserve cooking liquid for soups and stews.
Serve beans or store in covered container in the refrigerator for several days, or freeze.
For maple beans, stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of Wozupi or Passamaquody maple syrup into the pot before removing beans from the stove.