Ask Chef Phyllis:
Many years ago, my mother and grandmother made what they called “Boston baked” beans that cooked in a large brown bean pot overnight in the oven. The beans didn’t have BBQ sauce or, for that matter, a red tomato sauce at all. I haven’t found a good recipe and would prefer to make Boston baked beans in my slow cooker instead of the oven. Any ideas for a true recipe?
—Mary Louise Cassidy from Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Boston baked bean is a story in itself, cooked long and slow so that the beans literally caramelize in their juices—and you’re right—without the use of BBQ sauce.
A slow cooker is my favorite carefree method for cooking this dish, but in years past, a heavy casserole with a tight-fitting lid or a large “bean pot” was all that was available. I have to admit that overnight cooking, which you mention in your letter, really appeals to me. As you probably know, beans done right are a thing of beauty!
Boston Baked Beans
You’ll need a 4-quart slow cooker for this recipe. It makes about 2½–3 quarts of finished beans and serves 8. It’s also easy to double if you have a 6-quart or larger slow cooker or crock pot, and the cooking time is the same.
6–8 oz. of salt pork or ½ lb. thick-sliced bacon
2–2½ cups white beans, washed and picked over
6–7 cups water
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups red or yellow onions, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons organic, unsulfured blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or ½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
- Turn the slow cooker on high.
- Cut the salt pork into cubes or slice each piece of bacon into 6 pieces.
- Add salt pork or bacon to the cooker and cook for 15 minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.
- Add remaining ingredients in the order given, stirring well.
- Set slow cooker to lowest setting and cook for 10–12 hours. The beans should be completely covered and barely simmering after one hour. They should be a dark reddish-brown when they’re done.
- Stir the beans. Remove bay leaves, then taste beans before correcting seasonings.
- Freeze in airtight quart-size containers with at least one inch of head room for up to 6 months.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products