Canned beans work in a pinch. They’re inexpensive and rich in protein. But the better option, if time allows, is to make beans from scratch — and with a slow cooker, there’s no need to monitor the stovetop, and little risk of over-cooking. From renowned Southern chef and slow cooker evangelist Hugh Acheson comes a recipe for Boston-style “baked” beans.
Published in his new cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker, humble white beans are transformed into a sweet-savory side dish by the addition of rich molasses, thick-cut bacon, herbal thyme and tangy orange zest. It’s a dish that pairs well with quintessential winter meals (think braised meats) and can stand on its own when served with crusty bread.
Boston “Baked” Beans
8 to 12 as a side
1 pound dried white beans, such as navy beans
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice
1 medium yellow onion, minced (to yield about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon minced orange zest
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1. Place the beans in a large bowl and add cold water to cover by 3 inches. Cover the bowl and soak the beans in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
2. Drain the beans and place them in a slow cooker (minimum 4-quart capacity). Add 4 cups of broth, cover with the lid, and turn the cooker to the low setting.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet set over medium heat, warm the oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the bacon and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, dry mustard, molasses, orange zest, thyme and remaining 2 cups broth. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the bacon mixture to the beans, cover with the lid, and cook on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours, until the beans are cooked to your liking. Season with salt to taste.
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