Recently it was raining in Calgary and snowflakes were spotted. It’s May in Calgary and I am at peace with it. And you won’t see me complaining when I can wear my Birkenstocks in December. Anyhoo, rainy/snow days are perfect for baked beans when you feel like eating something warm and that will make your house smell good. But you do not need to save homemade beans for less than favourable weather. With barbeque season approaching, they are a good side dish because you have to make them ahead of time and they can simmer all day long in the slow cooker and not heat your house up. I like to cook the beans the day before and simmer them with the rest of the ingredients the next day to build the flavours. My version is vegetarian and I do not think the meat is missed at all, but if you want to add some leftover ham or bacon, just put it in with the onion. -Steph McVox
Slow Cooker “Baked” Beans
Adapted from Jean’s Beans
Serves 6 to 8
· 1 ½ cups dried navy beans
· Water to cover beans
· 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
· ¼ cup each molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup
· ½ cup ketchup or homemade tomato jam
· 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
· 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
· 1 teaspoon sea salt
· 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
· ¼ teaspoon of chipotle powder
· 1 large onion, quartered and tough outer skin removed
· ½ cup bean water or Strongbow cider or beer (Strongbow is my preference)
1. Place dried beans into a large heavy pot and cover with water, about three or four times as much water as beans. Bring to a boil for two minutes, cover, remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain and cover with fresh water.
2. At this point, you can soak the beans overnight but my slow cooker is a wimp and the beans never seem tender enough for me so I cover them with a lid and put them back on the stove, add the vegetable oil and bring to a boil. Then simmer slowly until tender, 2-3 hours. Do not add other ingredients yet or the beans will not soften. They should be alone in the water until tender. Test for doneness of beans by blowing on them and if the skins blow off, they are done. Or try tasting them. It will feel more firm than canned beans but you will know if you want to eat it or not, plus it will become more tender in the slow cooker.
3. When beans are tender, drain reserving the liquid. I put the beans in the refrigerator at this point. You can also freeze them and have cooked beans ready to use when you need them. When ready to bake beans, transfer cooked or soaked beans to a slow cooker pot and add molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, ketchup, dry mustard, salt, chipotle, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and half the reserved liquid or cider/beer. Add the onion. Cover and slow cook for 3 to 9 hours, adding extra bean water or more cider/beer if the mixture becomes dry. Uncover for the last half hour and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
You may want to remove the onion pieces if you have kids that say “Yucky!” at the first glance of an onion, even though you have tried to explain how good and sweet onions taste when they are cooked.