I think every area of North America, or maybe every family in North America, has a different way to cook baked beans. When I was growing up in Canada, “traditional” baked beans had no thick and tangy tomato sauce like the canned beans we occasionally buy now. They were soft, warm and sweet. They were a staple at church suppers, potlucks and family gatherings. There was always someone in the family who made great beans, and always someone who got distracted and forgot to check them and ended up with hard, horrible dry things that we ate anyway because they took so. darn. long. to cook.
I’m not sure when people first started using Crock-Pots, but for sure nobody made baked beans in them back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. At least nobody I knew. Besides, they’re BAKED beans, not crocked beans (I think that’s how you would say that). But the Crock-Pot has the advantage of being energy and cost efficient. Beans are cheap to buy, but having the oven on all day is so not cheap.
Beans are a fantastic meal. They’re easy to make, they’re filling, full of fiber, a good protein substitute, naturally gluten free, and SUPER cheap. I think this is why every culture has their own spin on beans. If you haven’t made baked beans before, or if you haven’t made them in the Crock-Pot, I’ve made the directions a little more detailed than usual.
Baked Beans in the Crock Pot
- 2 cups dried navy beans
- 1 onion
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Water for soaking
- Water for cooking
- Optional: 1 tablespoon of butter or bacon grease
- Measure your beans into a large bowl, they’re going to expand so make sure they have lots of room. I usually use my largest mixing bowl.
- Many old time cookbooks suggest that you sort and wash beans. I haven’t usually had problems with the beans I buy in stores in North America, but if you’re outside North America, or you’re buying from an international source or directly from a farm, you might want to check through your beans after you measure them into the bowl and make sure there are no small pieces of gravel mixed in.
- Now you need to soak the beans. This means you fill the bowl all the way up with water and let it sit on the counter overnight. (Easy, right?)
- First thing in the morning, drain your beans and give them a little rinse. (There are two thoughts on this. One is “cooking the beans in the soaking water preserves the nutrients” the other is “draining and rinsing the beans makes you less likely to get gassy after eating them.” I’m not sure if the soaking water preserves nutrients, but I’m willing to err on the side of less gassy, so I drain and rinse my beans)
- Pour the drained beans into the Crock Pot. (I use a 3.5 quart round one for this recipe.) Then add water until the beans are about 1/2 an inch under water.
- Sprinkle on the brown sugar and add the sliced onions. If you want, you can add a tablespoon of butter or bacon grease.
- Cover the Crock-Pot with the lid and cook on high for 6 hours or until soft (possibly more than 6 hours depending on the freshness of your beans). I make them when I know I’m going to be home all day because you have to check them every couple of hours and make sure there’s enough water in the pot. Make sure there beans are always covered by at least 1/8 inch of water.
NOTE: Don’t stir the beans while they’re cooking, this will make them mushy.
NOTE: Don’t add salt, vinegar, tomato or anything else acidic until the beans are all done cooking. Salt and acid will make the skin on the beans tough and then they’ll be hard and small and nasty.
NOTE: There are some parts of the world where beans are amazingly fresh and you can make these in a breeze and unfortunately some parts of the world where your beans will never ever cook. I think it’s probably due to freshness. I could never make nice baked beans in Thailand, but I had no trouble with other legumes that were regularly used in Asian cuisine.
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