Monday, June 21, 2010

June 13-15, 2010: Maple baked beans

With winter well and truly arrived, it was time to pull out the slow cooker that Michael gave me for my last birthday.  I figured it was also time that I tried cooking dried beans at home - you might have noticed that all of our leguminous recipes use cans.  It turns out that this is really s l o w   c  o  o  k  i  n  g.  First the beans need to be soaked in room temperature water for at least 8 hours.(I was surprised how much they expanded in this one step!)  Then they go into the slow cooker with some garlic and bay leaves for 8-12 hours.  Then after a little rinse they go back into the slow cooker with their sauce ingredients for 6-8 hours more!

Happily, these baked beans were worth the wait. They're actually remarkably similar to how I remember canned baked beans tasting (... I haven't eaten those for years). They are extraordinarily soft and this sauce is very sweet (I guess that's the maple syrup talking).  Michael liked them even more with a little Tabasco sauce.  I reckon I could go for a little more bite, so in future I'd like to try skipping the intermediate slow-cooking step and go straight from soaking to slow-cooking with sauce (while keeping an eye on the moisture levels).  I'd probably add a few chilli flakes to the brew as well.  There's still a half-kilo of dried beans in the cupboard and several months of cold weather ahead - plenty of room to experiment.

Basic beans
(based on a recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

Note that this recipe makes roughly double the beans required for the maple baked bean recipe below.  We threw some of the leftover beans in pasta for dinner later in the week, and made a half-serve of this Veganomicon recipe with the rest.

500g dried Great Northern (or other) beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

Place the dried beans in a large contained and cover them with water, with an extra inch or two of water on top.  Leave them to soak for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans and transfer them to a slow cooker, adding the garlic and bay leaves.  Cover them with fresh water, pop on the lid and cook the beans on low for 8-12 hours.

Gently drain and rinse the beans when they're done.

Maple baked beans
(from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cups Great Northern beans, cooked as above
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/4 cups hot water

Saute the onion in the oil in a frypan over medium heat, for about 5 minutes or until softened.  Transfer the onion to a slow cooker and add the beans, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper.  Dissolve the tomato paste into the hot water and pour it over the beans.  Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook the beans on low for 6-8 hours.


  1. Looks good!

    With the beans, I'd be careful of trying to skip the first cooking stage and going straight to the sauce stage... acid can stop them softening and the tomato paste *might* have enough to be a problem.

    Once I didn't have a problem cooking them in the sauce, but another time they just didn't soften, so even though i had par-cooked them previously, they were too hard at the end becuase they didn't soften further.

    Might not be a problem, but maybe...

  2. I tend to reach for a can of beans because I find organising myself around soaking beans is a challenge but I do love it when I soak my own - and this reminds me that I have some dried black beans in the pantry.

    I am more amazed that you don't eat tinned baked beans - that is a staple and a comfort food in our house

  3. I love baked beans, and you have just given me a brunch project.


  4. Hey Stru, thanks for that advice! Perhaps it'd be safer to try reducing both cooking times rather than cutting one out entirely. I'll keep that in mind next time.

    Johanna, it is a little strange! I was anti-beans of all kinds for many years and just never took up the tinned baked ones later on.

    Hope to see it on your blog, Jess! I'm just as happy eating them for lunch or dinner. :-)

  5. Fantastic! I was given a huge slow cooker about a month after I turned veg and I haven't really used it - might start with these beans. Yummo.

  6. Yes I would also advocate against skipping the first cooking phase - maybe just shorten it. I've had beans that I ended up having to cook in the sauce in the slowcooker for more than 24 hours :( But people do say it depends on the freshness of the beans etc (see lengthy discussion of this in comments re smitten kitchen slowcooker black bean soup).