I’m worried that half of my recent posts have involved slow cookers or baked beans, but I don’t want to count in case it’s more than half.
I remember the days pre-slow cooker when I would come across slow cooker features in magazines or on blogs and find it so tiresome. And yet, here we are!
I made a second attempt at the baked beans this week. Here’s the deal: you have to cook the beans first because they won’t soften further (apparently) once you add the sugar. Last time I cooked the beans on the stovetop, but the whole point of the slow cooker is that you don’t have to babysit something on the stove, which is defeated if a recipe starts with you babysitting beans on the stove for an hour or two.
So I bought a little more than two pounds of yellow eye beans from Whole Foods (in their bulk section, they have local organic yellow eye beans for $2.50 a pound).
Beans in the Slow Cooker
1. I soaked all the beans overnight, then drained the soaking liquid and dumped the beans into the slow cooker with water to cover. This step is optional. Some believe that it makes beans easier to digest, some think it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t really know how much of a difference it all makes, but I didn’t want to risk it. You can also cover the beans with an inch or two of cold water, bring to boil, boil for a minute, then cover and turn off the heat and let them sit for at least an hour.
2. As per these directions on thekitchn.com, I set the slow cooker on 8 hours (so, low heat) with plans to check them after 4 hours and then every half hour thereafter. I checked them at 4 hours, and they were not done. And then I forgot about them and went to an appointment and came back two or two and a half hours later and then were kind of overdone, but okay. Mushier than I would ideally want, but not a total loss. It’s good to leave room for improvement in your cooking.
3. I took out half the beans and portioned them into ziplock backs in approximately 14-ounce increments. I added cooking liquid to the bags (to minimize freezer burn) and then froze them flat (refrigerated until cold, then froze). I’ll use those beans in recipes that call for a can of beans (which is usually 14 ounces). I thaw them by submerging the bag in water.
4. I drained the rest of the beans and proceeded with the baked beans recipe.
New England Baked Beans
- 1 lb dried beans, cooked until soft (the original recipe calls for California pea beans, I used yellow eye beans)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 small whole onions, gashed through center (when was the last time you saw a recipe that involved the word “gashed”?)
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/3 - 1/2 pound salt pork, cut up into 1” pieces (my local Whole Foods carries Niman Ranch salt pork)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- (the original recipe also calls for several 1” squares of fat salt, which my mum deduced was an error, just duplicating the salt pork, thus solving the mystery of the “fat salt”)
- water to cover beans (edit: if you’re making this in the slow cooker, you should probably use half as much water)
Combine everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.