I love beans of all kinds, baked beans, chili beans, bean soup, refried beans, you name it; so I've tried a lot of bean recipes. As usual, I ended up taking the best part of several recipes and combining them to create this crockpot picnic bean recipe. Every BBQ needs a big pot of beans !!
These beans are slightly sweet and smokey, not to mention VERY flavorful and an inexpensive (and nutritious) way to feed a crowd. The trick is to start them the day ahead (with soaked beans), then let them cook in the crockpot all day (or overnight is even better). Your kitchen will smell heavenly.
3 cups DRY navy beans (soaked overnight)
3/4 cup tomato puree
3/4 cut ketchup
2½ cups (bean) water (see note)
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons DRY mustard powder
1 medium onion chopped
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound of bacon (fried and crumbled)
Rinse and sort the dry beans (sometimes, there are tiny rocks or pieces of dirt in the bag). Cover them with water (about 3" above the beans) and put them in the fridge for about 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse them again.
Put the beans in a large kettle and cover with with enough water to measure 3-4 inches above the beans. Gently boil for 1 to 2 hours (all beans cook at different rates, so just test for doneness after an hour ...just don't let them get mushy). If you want to skip this step, see alternative method below.
Drain the beans, but reserve 2½ cups of the bean water. Put the drained beans, onion and crumbled bacon in the crockpot.
Mix the 2½ cups of reserved bean water with the tomato puree, ketchup, molasses, sugar, dry mustard, and salt until smooth then pour over the beans, stirring very gently to distribute everything.
Cover and cook on low setting of your crockpot for about 8 hours. Don't be afraid to add a little water towards the end if it looks like it needs it (it won't effect the taste).
NOTE: If you don't want to mess with boiling the beans, you can soak them all day and then before you go to bed, put the beans in the crockpot, cover them with water (water only) and let them cook on low all night. In the morning, drain the beans (saving 2½ cups of the bean water) and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
NOTE: Navy beans work the best for this recipe, but northern beans or any small white DRY bean will work, just don't use a dry lima bean...they get mushy too fast.
NOTE: "Bean water" is simply the water that you boiled the beans in.