Slow cooker Boston baked beans! With a thick and slightly spice sauce these homemade baked beans are quick to prepare. Equally great with fresh bread, toast and grilled meat.
History of Boston Baked Beans
The first recipe named Boston Baked Beans was published in Boston in 1955. The original ingredients included mixed beans, salt pork, ½ cup sugar, 2/3 cup molasses, mustard, onion, salt and pepper.
Today you will find variations on the recipe. But in order for it to be called Boston baked beans it should contain molasses. Why, in the 18th century one of the main products sold in Boston was molasses and was widely available as a sweetener.
And it was at this time that molasses was added to the local slow cooked baked beans, which eventually lead to the name Boston Baked Beans.
Dried white beans – Use Navy Beans or Great Northern beans, you should have no trouble finding them in your local supermarket. However, if you can’t get them there, look for them in a store that specialises in Indian groceries.
Baking soda – A little baking soda in the cooking liquid will help to soften the beans.
Smoked bacon – Salt pork is commonly used in Boston Baked beans if you can’t get salt pork use bacon ends like I did.
Garlic and ginger – These aren’t traditional but the do add to the flavour of the beans.
Ketchup – Another non-traditional ingredient that will add depth of flavour to the beans.
Dijon mustard – You can substitute this with ground mustard paste.
Apple cider vinegar – breaks down the structure of the beans making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients, that would otherwise be passed through the body without being absorbed. Read this article by Elaina from The Rising Spoon for more on this.
Maple syrup and molasses – These are used to sweeten the beans. This recipe only used 2 tablespoons of each, which I find is enough. However, if you like your food sweeter add more to taste after cooking.
Worcestershire sauce – This adds a slight savoury, tangy and spicy flavour to the dish.
Ground cloves – If you don’t like cloves leave it out.
Salt and pepper – Add this to taste at the end of cooking.
A little preparation is required before placing everything into the slow cooker.
The night before rinse the beans, and place into a large deep saucepan. Cover the beans with enough cold water so that the water rises about 10 cm above the beans. Allow to soak overnight.
The next day add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to the pot with the beans and water. The baking soda will help soften the beans. Put the pot on the stove and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Use a spoon or ladle to remove the white foam that comes to the surface.
Remove from the heat and drain the beans, keeping the cooking liquid. Place the drained beans into the slow cooker.
Place the diced bacon into a large non-stick fry pan (skillet) on a medium heat. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes or, until the fat has rendered out and the bacon has browned.
Note: If the bacon has very little fat you might want to use about ¼ – ½ teaspoon of oil for frying.
Add the diced onion and constantly stir until the onions start to change colour – about 4 minutes.
Next, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Add a splash of water and gently scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck bits. Transfer the bacon and onion mixture to the slow cooker.
Place all the remaining ingredients (except the salt and pepper) into the slow cooker with 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.
About 5 hours in to cooking taste the beans, if they are tender and you like the texture, they are done. If not continue cooking and tasting until you get the desired texture. Finally season with salt and pepper.
Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
Soaking The Beans
The beans can be hydrated using one of two methods:
Overnight Soak – Place the dried beans into a large deep pot (or bowl) with water. The water level should be at least 7 cm above the top of the beans. This is because, the beans will absorb the water and expand. They should be soaked for a minimum of 8 hours.
Quick Soak – Place the dried beans into a large deep pot with water. The water level should be at least 7 cm above the top of the beans. Bring the water to a rapid boil then turn of the heat, cover with a lid and allow the beans to soak for one hour.
Retain The Cooking Liquid
Don’t throw away the cooking liquid, use some of it in the recipe. The liquid is full of the beans natural starches and will help to thicken the sauce as they cook.
Can you freeze Boston baked beans?
Yes, they can be frozen, freeze for no more than 6 months. Any longer than that they will lose flavour.
How to reheat Boston baked beans?
Baked beans can be reheated in a pot on the stove on low heat, or in the microwave oven.
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Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans
- 6 litre slow cooker
- 500 grams dried white beans such as Great Northern or Navy
- 6 cups water
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 200 grams smoked bacon ends roughly chopped
- 200 grams diced onion
- 4 garlic cloves minced or 2 teaspoons garlic paste
- 125 ml ketchup 1/2 cup
- 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons dark molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Salt and pepper to taste
The night before
- Put the beans in a large saucepan with 7 cups of water and allow to soak overnight.
The next day
- Add the baking soda to the beans. Bring the beans to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Skim of any foam. Drain the beans keeping the cooking liquid and transfer the drained beans to the slow cooker.
- Heat a large fry pan and cook the bacon over low-medium heat until it browns. Add the onion and cook for a further 3-4 minutes on until it is lightly brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.
- Add the ketchup, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce and ground cloves to the slow cooker.
- Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid to the slow cooker and stir the mixture. Note: If you didn’t keep the cooking water, just add water.Two cups of cooking liquid will make a thick sauce, if you would like more a fluid sauce add up to 1 to 1 1/2 cups more.
- Put the lid on and cook beans until tender, on high for 3 – 4 hours on low for 6 – 8 hours. Note: cooking can vary depending on the age of the bean. Younger beans cook quicker than older beans.
- Taste for seasoning and sweetness and adjust if necessary.