vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged baked beans

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In Which I Become Even More Tiresome (Slow Cookers and Baked Beans, Again)

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.

Filed under baked beans slow cooker franks and beans for dinner! making healthy foods unhealthy!

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I Made the Baked Beans.

My grandmother had four children: two sets of twins. For at least a year or two, she was raising four children under the age of four. Based on my mum’s stories of her childhood, it is quite clear that she and her brothers (three boys!) were not running wild. I try to imagine this when I make my grandmother’s recipes. You know, my grandmother made this plus raised four well behaved children. My grandmother chopped onions for this recipe, plus had four children. And a dog.

In any case, I made her recipe for New England baked beans this weekend. As far as I can tell, and I mean this with NO DISRESPECT to my grandmother because she was super elegant and a fantastic cook and raised FOUR CHILDREN to functional adulthood, but the recipe seems to be an eight hour process of turning some healthy beans into something actually pretty unhealthy. Unhealthy and delicious, and on Sunday, Dave and I had franks and beans.

A few notes:

  • I never figured out what “salt fat” was. So I just used the salt pork, which appeared to be, more or less, salted and cured fat.
  • 1/3 - 1/2 lb of salt pork is more than “several” 1” cubes. It’s like eight.
  • I added too much water to the cooking beans, so I eventually just scooped some out (rather than trying to simmer it off). I don’t think there was any great loss of flavor as a result, but be careful that you don’t add too much water.
  • I was (for once) pretty careful about not overcooking the beans before baking them, and they maintained their bean-integrity. If you want beans that are falling apart or mushier, you should cook them to that point before baking.
  • My oven was on for about eight hours. My gas bill is going to be terrifying.

Filed under baked beans New England