Sunday, September 19, 2010

Boston Baked Beans

Last weekend my fiance was in town, so I didn't have a chance to update this blog.  However, it may have actually worked out in the long run because I'm not sure I'll make any more crock pot meals this month, due to budget constrictions from eating out more while my fiance was visiting, and this will give me a chance to catch up on posting about meals that I made last month without getting ahead of myself.

As you may recall from my post about Summer Crock Pot Cooking, that week, on August 4, I made Boston Baked Beans from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  This recipe, according to the cookbook, "has the exact same ingredients as those recorded by Abigail Adams of Massachusetts, wife of one president and mother of another, in her own handwritten cookbook from the late 1700s." Because it takes 10-12 hours on low after you precook the beans on high for an hour and a half, I ended up getting up at 6:00 a.m. just to start the crock pot.  The beans (I used white navy beans; the recipe suggests either those or pea beans) had soaked overnight in the crock pot already, so when I got up I just drained them, put fresh water in, and turned it on for the hour and a half on high.

While the beans were precooking, I prepped the piece of salt pork belly, something that I've never cooked with before, which most definitely grossed me out a little bit.  When shopping for the necessary ingredients for this recipe, I had to ask for help because I had no idea where such things were even sold in the grocery store.  As you can see from the picture to the right, this had to simmer in boiling water for 10 minutes "to remove excess salt."

Then, the directions say to "dice" the salt pork.  As you can see from the picture to the left, I did not "dice" the salt pork.  This came from a combination of me being lazy, not wanting to touch the salt pork, tired because it was 6:00 a.m., and just not caring.  But this way, I was able to serve the beans without serving the salt pork with it.  Anyway, after prepping the salt pork, I had to wait until the beans finished precooking, so I lay down on the couch, set my watch to go off when the beans were done, and took a nap.

After my nap, I got up and drained the beans and added most of the other ingredients to the crock pot.  Because you need to add boiling water to this recipe as well, I put the six cups of water needed on the stove before adding the other ingredients.  As you might be able to see from the picture to the right, this included the salt pork, molasses, brown sugar, dry mustard, and salt and pepper--though I didn't add the extra salt, something you know I never do if you've been following this blog.

Finally, you add a whole onion that has been scored with a crisscross pattern, pushing it down into the center of the beans.  After I took this picture, actually, I decided that the onion wasn't pushed down into the beans enough and so I pushed it down further.

Perhaps I didn't push the onion down enough, however, because, as you can see from the picture to the right, the onion floated right up to the top.

This is what the crock pot looked like when I first turned it on.

Now, this step in the directions is, I suspect, where my problems started.  The recipe says, "Cover and cook on HIGH to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to LOW and cook until the beans are soft, thick, and bubbling, 10 to 12 hours."  This may have partly been poor planning on my part, but when I got up at 6:00 a.m. to make the baked beans, I had planned to eat them that night for dinner.  I hadn't counted on the time needed to bring the crock pot "to a boil" and after 30-ish minutes, when it hadn't boiled yet, I turned to the internet to see how long it takes for a crock pot to boil on high.  This was not at all helpful.  The only things that google turned up were recipes, like this one, that call for turning the crock pot to high to get it to boil before turning it to low, or sites that said that liquids "do not boil" in the crock pot.  I even asked the question on Yahoo answers, which got me nothing but the same old "crock pot's don't boil" line.  Anyway, I think I left it on high for maybe like 45 minutes or so before turning it to low.

This is what it looked like at the end of cooking.

Now, baked beans are not the healthiest side dish.  I didn't calculate the calories in this recipe, but google tells me that "Boston baked beans" have about 200 calories in a half a cup.  To offset this, I served them with a vegetarian Bobby Flay dish, Grilled Portobello Mushrooms stacked with Fresh Spinach and Shaved Manchego Cheese.  This was absolutely delicious.  As you might be able to see from the picture, however, after cooking on low for 12 hours, my beans were still not "soft, thick, and bubbling."  The taste was fabulous, but the texture of the beans was all wrong for baked beans.  I turned the beans on high and let them cook that way for several more hours while I did some work and got ready for bed (and yes, the crock pot did "boil," but no I don't know how long it took to do that).  Right before going to bed I started putting the beans in plastic containers to go in the fridge, and saw that they still had the wrong texture.  So I left them on for a few more hours and my roommate put them in containers in the fridge before she went to bed several hours later.  Guess what!  The beans still were not the right texture.

Now, my roommate and I speculated about all this and came up with possible reasons why the beans didn't turn out correctly.  First, the beans could have been stale and I just didn't look closely enough when I first put them in to soak to notice this.  Second, it could have been the failure to get the crock pot to boil before I turned it on low.  Third, perhaps not adding the extra salt affected the recipe in some way.  And fourth, perhaps the beans just need to cook for a longer period of time.  If anyone is willing, I'd love someone else to try making this recipe to see how it works for you.


  1. I had the same problem, and wonder if there may be an error in the amount of water called for. The recipe says that the water should come up 1/2" over the beans, but that took only about 3 cups, instead of the required 6. I'm in the process of reducing the liquid separately on the stovetop to see if it helps. Agree that the taste is great. The texture on mine after 12 hours is about right.

  2. That did the trick, but I find they're too sweet for my taste. Next time, I'll add half the sweeteners and half the water.

  3. I didn't try this recipe yet but I soak the beans covered overnight in water too. The beans could have been old. I have heard do not add salt as it makes the beans tough or cooking in hard water makes the beans not want to cook correctly. I thought using softened water could mess it up too because of the salt but that is just my guess. I would rather cook with ham. New to your blog, looks great.