As a Mainer, I adore baked beans. I love to make them the old-fashioned way, which involves soaking the beans, parboiling them, putting them in a clay pot with a lid in the oven and babying them every step of the way. They are absolutely amazing made this way (a thousand times better than canned- it’s like a completely different food) but they are a pain.
I caved and used a slow cooker. But the recipes I found didn’t leave me with that amazing taken bean result I craved. I tried layering my bacon, beans and onions; that turned out to be the secret. With the bacon nearest the heat, it renders out some fat and the onions get a chance to gently soften without browning on top of the beans. Just mix the liquid component before pouring it on top of the layers and you won’t disturb them!
The best way to taste for doneness is to perform the 3 bean test. Eat three beans from different parts of the dish; if they are all cooked through, the whole shebang is done. If one is still hard, keep adding time in 30 minute increments.
Final tip; add the salt last. If you add the salt too early when cooking beans, the skins turn to mush. Wait till the end to see how much salt is needed; taste and adjust and you’ll have the perfect side dish for fall! Best of all, you just had to sit and wait for everything to cook- no babying!
1 pound dried navy, pinto or great northern beans
1 pound thick cut bacon, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Soak your beans at least 12 hours in a large bowl of water. Draw and rinse before using.
Spread the diced bacon in a single layer of your slow cooker. Add the drained beans in a layer, and then top with a layer of the onion. Cover and turn the slow cooker to low as you prepare the liquid.
Mix the broth, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine all ingredients.
Pour the sauce over the beans but do not stir. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Taste for doneness at the six hour mark. When done, stir in the salt and taste; add more if needed. Enjoy!