It was the original crock pot (slow cooker). Imagine, preparing something savory that took hours to cook down into a luscious, creamy texture? What device could perform this task? Folks, it is the bean pot!
As the name implies, bean pots were created to cook beans. In case you are not familiar with one; it is a deep, yet wide pot with a thick base and a lid. These pots are traditionally ceramic and glazed both on the inside and exterior of the pot. Bean pots also came in a variety of sizes such as: 3 quart, 1 1/2 quart, and 1 quart.
Bean pots not only graced the homestead kitchen, but also the kitchen of city dwellers. These vessels performed their task so well that they can still be found in kitchens across the country. While they may not be common at your local department store, they regularly appear at antique shops, flea markets, specialty shops, and online catalogs.
I grew up in a home where a bean pot was used regularly. One of the main reasons is that beans are an inexpensive source of protein, which is important when you are feeding a large family on a limited income. However, beans graced our table not only because they were cheap, but when prepared properly, they create one of the most luscious meals…baked beans!
Before you pull up a chair to the table, there are a few steps you must take in order to prepare the primary ingredient in this wonderful vessel.
First, clean the dry beans. Given how beans are harvested, bits of debris may end up along with the packaged beans. Items could include small pebbles and dried leaves or stems. Pour the beans into a large flat pan. Spread the beans out searching for items other than beans. Discard any objects other than beans.
Second, rinse the beans. Place the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water. Rinse until the water dripping from the bottom of the colander runs clear.
Third, soak your beans. Place the beans in a large pan and cover with water. By soaking the beans, two objectives are reached. The first is that the cooking time will be shortened as the soak will begin to soften the beans. The other objective when starting with dried beans is that the soak will help reduce the gas-producing compound in the beans. Bring the water to a boil with the beans and continue the boil for 3 – 4 minutes. You will then remove the beans from the heat. Cover the pot with a lid and allow to sit overnight. In the morning, drain the water from the beans. Rinse with fresh water.
The final step is to cook your beans. Place the soaked beans into a bean pot and add enough water to cover the beans by 2″. You may add other flavorings such as diced onions, molasses, mustard, brown sugar, and ketchup. Place the bean pot into an oven pre-heated to 300F. Baked the beans with the lid on the pot. Bake for at least 4 hours, and removing the pot once an hour to stir the beans. If the water level is low and the beans are still firm, add more water and allow to cook longer. When the beans are almost ready, season with salt to taste.
In my experience, baking beans is something that can take anywhere from 3 hours to 12 hours, depending on the age of the beans. The older the beans, the longer the cooking time. Just keep checking on the beans once every hour. The beans are done when they are tender and have lost their firmness.
So friends, pull out that bean pot and buy a bag of dried beans. Not only can you prepare a great tasting dish, but you can relive a bit of history by serving homemade baked beans at your dinner table.