A Side Dish with Old-Fashioned Flavor, Modern-Day Convenience
As side dishes go, there are few as unapologetically old-school as baked beans. Whether you grew up eating yours with baked bread in New England or alongside barbecue in the South, they're refreshingly unfussy, unpretentious and deliciously nostalgic. Many "easy" recipes call for canned beans, but starting with dry beans is actually less fuss and gives a tastier finished product. Start this recipe before bed, then assemble it in the morning before you head off to work.
Total Time: 8 to 10 hours | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 6
- 1 pound dry white beans, such as navy or Great Northern
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup diced cured fatty pork (bacon, salt pork or the rind of fat from a ham)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced or sliced into thin rings
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup tomato ketchup (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard powder (optional)
- In a large mixing bowl, fill it halfway with cold water. Open the bag of beans and pour it into the water, skimming off any loose skins or broken, floating beans. Add the salt and stir briefly. Leave the beans to soak overnight.
- In the morning, line your slow cooker with a liner bag for easier cleanup. Drain the beans and transfer them to a 6-quart Crock-Pot, layering them with the pork and onions. Whisk together the remaining ingredients with 2 cups of water, and pour them over the beans. Add enough extra water to cover the beans to a depth of 1/4-inch or so.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the lid and taste the beans. They should be tender by now, and the sauce should have a smooth and mellow flavor. If the beans need a little longer, increase the temperature to high and let them cook for one more hour.
- Serve hot or cold as a side dish, or with a dinner roll or thick slice of bread as a meal in its own right.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.