Canning Baked Beans from the Slow Cooker
I love canning my own baked beans. A bag of dried beans costs me $5 for 4 lbs, and will yield me 14+ pints of baked beans. Compared to the store price of $2 per can, making my own is much more affordable – and they taste better. And I know exactly what’s in them.
But canning baked beans in the oven is kind of a drag. I don’t like to use my oven for hours on end – it draws a lot of electricity and it heats the house up. Not so bad in winter, very bad in summer. Additionally, if I make the beans in a casserole pan I have to constantly add water to keep them from drying out, which means I have to be around to check on them (no baked beans during the week while I’m at work). I eventually got a dutch oven because of this, but it doesn’t hold enough beans at a time. (In order to can up a big batch, I would use multiple casserole pans. The dutch oven makes enough for a large family, but not enough justify running my pressure canner for 5 pints of beans!)
The solution to all my problems ended up being the slow cooker. It draws less electricity than my oven, keeps water from evaporating rapidly, and holds 4 lbs of beans. After the Thanksgiving holiday I was looking at the remains of our bone-in ham. If you aren’t aware, cooking beans is often improved by adding a ham hock or other bone with a little meat on it, and the Thanksgiving ham carcass would be perfect for making a lot of baked beans.
I smooshed the ham remains into my 6 qt slow cooker. I had to get out the hacksaw to make it fit, as the thigh bone was just a liiiittle too long. I used the quick soak method for my beans, but you could soak yours overnight. I used 4 lbs of dried pinto beans. I put them in a stock pot covered by about 2 inches of water and brought them to a boil on the stove, then turned off the heat, covered the pot, and let them sit and “soak” for an hour. After an hour I drained the cooking water from the beans and put them in the slow cooker. At first they didn’t all fit, so I set aside about a quart of soaked beans to be added as the beans cooked down.
To the beans and ham carcass in the slow cooker I added:
6 cups water
2 tablespoons garlic
¼ cup honey
½ cup barbeque sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s, but you can choose your favorite or make your own.)
3 cups light brown sugar
1 cups diced onion
I cooked this mixture on low, stirring occasionally, adding the extra beans as it cooked down. I left it overnight unattended, stirred it in the morning, added another half cup of barbeque sauce, and left it all day while I was at work. When I got home I tasted it – perfect.
Using my canning funnel I put beans in pint jars. I got 14 pints out of my 4 lbs of dried beans. I made a sauce out of ¼ cup barbeque sauce and 3.5 cups hot water, and poured over the beans to fill the jars to 1” headspace. Wipe your rims and seat your lids, and process in a pressure canner at pressure for your altitude (10# for me) for 75 minutes.
You could add a lot of great things to this to make it your own. If you like heat, add pepper flakes, chili seasoning, or diced jalapenos. Try adding maple syrup, or mustard, for a different taste. Add more molasses for a “Boston baked beans” flavor.
Save your bones to make bone broth!