I was born and raised in Connecticut, located betwixt New York City and Boston. Two great cities, each with a lot to offer. In less than a day’s journey, I could be in New York City for a Broadway show and scarf down a deli sandwich that rivaled the size of my head or, I could drive on up to Boston and catch a game at Fenway whilst enjoying a delicious Fenway Frank in the blazing sun hoping that I put on enough sunscreen so that I don’t turn the color of my hot dog by the end of the game.
When I was tasked with creating a regional recipe to be served alongside some cocktail sausages, I had the ability of knowing lots of great cuisine from both cities first hand. But in the end, I had to go with the city I currently call home and make some Boston Baked Beans.
Now, the easiest thing to do is go to the store and grab a can of already made baked beans, open the can, pour them into a bowl, zap ‘em in the microwave and serve. And while those will do in a pinch, there’s something about making baked beans from scratch that is so much more rewarding. Maybe it’s the fact that you know exactly what’s in there, that you can control the amount of salt, add more sugar, add more bacon, add in some bourbon (cause why not!?), enjoy the smell wafting through your home all day, etc.
Baked beans can seem like a daunting project. You need to keep and eye on them in the oven and stir them every few hours…plus you’ve got the oven on and it heats up your house and then you don’t want to leave your house unattended and then you feel trapped and then you begin to hate the beans and then you think about the gas that will come after and then you really rethink about why you’re making baked beans in the first place…so that’s why you must use your trusty friend the slow cooker.
For this recipe, I used dried navy beans. If you’re a bean snob, you’ll most likely stick to dried beans. However, if you really don’t feel like soaking them ahead of time, you can easily replace with canned navy beans. Just adjust the cooking time by a few hours so you don’t end up with complete mush. As for the whole process of “baking” the beans, it’s really easy. There are essentially two steps to this recipe. First, you need to soak the dried beans overnight. The second part is throwing everything into your slow cooker and walking away. That’s it. Seriously.
I created this recipe specially for Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies, so that’s why they’re in every picture. But they go great with a roast pork loin, alongside hamburgers, alongside hot dogs…wherever you like your beans. They were looking to have them treated more like hot dogs, so for some, I just took hot dog buns and cut them into smaller pieces to accommodate the tiny sausages. Another fun option is to buy a loaf of bread and then use a biscuit cutter (or round cutter) and then skewer the little sausage with the bread, great for a party!