It’s been over two years since my slow cooker has seen the light of day and you might be laughing at me now for waiting until the middle of spring to use it again. Most cooks would be putting theirs away for the season. A storm passed through the San Francisco bay area last weekend and I wanted some comfort food to make up for the (frightening) thunder that rumbled right over my house for hours–at least it sounded that way. I had the meat in the freezer, the beans in the pantry and the storm outside: no better reason to dust off my slow cooker and try pork and beans for the first time.
Truthfully, my expectations weren’t high as I threw in frozen stew meat, unsoaked dry beans, stock and some herbs and spices into my slow cooker. After taking stock of my ingredients, I found this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that hit all the right notes with me. However, I went the extremely lazy route and skipped the defrosting and browning of the meat (also used boneless instead of ribs), sautéing the onions, soaking the beans and omitted the sausage altogether. I just threw everything into my slow cooker. Well, except the tomatoes. I learned from a friend recently that adding acidic ingredients to beans before they’re tender halts the cooking process so I waited to add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste until the last hour of cooking time.
I might have spent the first two hours with fingers crossed not knowing if my lazy method would yield decent results but this stew was marvelous! It wasn’t rich, too heavy and cloying–rather it was filling and quite satisfying to eat in my warm kitchen while the wind howled outside and the clouds poured over my house last weekend.
Please try to ignore the fact that I’m sharing this hearty, cold-weather dish with you on one of the sunniest weeks we’ve had in a while. But do save the recipe for the next cold, rainy day. You won’t regret it.
- ½ pound dried Snowcap beans (or northern beans)
- 1½ pound boneless pork cut in stew-size pieces, frozen
- ½ onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 – 2¼ cups chicken stock, warmed in microwave or on the stove
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed (optional)
- ½ teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- Crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Add all the ingredients into the slow cooker from the beans to the bay leaf in the list above. For the chicken stock, use as little or as much as you will need to cover the beans so they cook evenly.
- Cook on High for 4 hours. You may want to stir everything together once or twice just to make sure the all the beans are cooking properly.
- After 4 hours, if the beans are tender, add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. I like to add a little fish sauce for an extra savory flavor but you may omit.
- Turn the power down to Low and cook for another hour.
- Serve with rice or with country bread