Friday, October 22, 2010

Slow & Saucy Faked Baked Beans

Not too long ago we had another potluck BBQ to go to. It's not always easy to decide what to bring to these get-togethers, but this time it seemed obvious. With grilled chicken, coleslaw and cornbread already on board, it was like one of those test questions that have you "complete the set". Seriously, what else would go so well with that line-up? Yep, this menu needed baked beans in a "you complete me" kind of way. In fact, what would Autumn barbecues, potlucks, and tailgating be without baked beans? They're such a hearty and satisfying side dish and perfectly complement just about any grilled meat. So how is it that I've never made them before now? Just another of life's little mysteries I guess.

Unconstrained by any set-in-stone ideas of how they ought to be done, I looked through what seemed like a thousand recipes for one that would work within my time frame and (most importantly) my budget. The most promising recipe was made and foisted upon my friends. It was pretty good. But not great. I made a few changes here and there, then cooked up another batch the following week. What I ended up with was a pretty tasty pot of beans. Unfortunately my friends didn't get to taste those. I wish they had. That second batch had just enough sweetness, just enough tang, and a heap of smoky depth. But they'll just have to take my word for it.

The real beauty of these Slow & Saucy Baked Beans is that they aren't baked at all; they cook in a Crock Pot while you do other fun things. Unorthodox cooking method aside, they're far more "from scratch" than most baked-bean recipes since they start out with dried beans instead of canned. While canned beans are certainly a convenient choice, that convenience comes at a price.* If you're making a big ol' pot o' beans for a crowd, it just makes sense (or should I say "cents") to start with dried.

Slow & Saucy Baked Beans
Adapted from: Saucy Baked Beans on page 129 in the BHG Biggest Book Of Slow Cooker Recipes (2002)

1 lb. dry navy beans or other small white beans
8 cups water
6 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-1/4 cups water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Pick over the dried beans for any broken ones or any pebbles. Rinse the beans well and drain.
  2. Add the beans and 8 cups of water to a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover with the lid and let stand for 1 hour. Stir beans occasionally and check for doneness.
  3. While beans are soaking, cook the bacon in a skillet. Put the cooked bacon into the slow cooker. Sauté the chopped onion in the leftover bacon fat in the skillet, then add it to the slow cooker. Next, sauté the chopped red bell pepper in the same skillet and add it to the slow cooker too.
  4. When the beans are tender, drain them well and add to the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the soy sauce and vinegar. Stir well.
  5. Cover the crock pot and cook on Low for 8-10 hours, or on High for 4-5 hours. Just before serving, stir in the soy sauce and apple cider vinegar.
Other baked-bean recipes that look really good...

*For roughly the cost of one can of beans, I can get a pound of dried beans that, once cooked, will yield the equivalent of 3-4 cans. Just how much is that "convenience" worth?
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  1. I have never in my life made baked beans. My mom makes them and I eat them. I really need to change that. I sense some bean making in my future.

  2. Kristin: I'm glad I'm not the only person who's gotten this far along in life and never made baked beans! There are so many basic things I haven't made.

    It sounds like your mom makes awesome baked beans, so... why mess with a good thing! Of course, if you do make them yourself, you can post your mom's recipe on PL&M! Hint hint!


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