If you’re hosting an old-fashioned barbecue on Labor Day this year, consider making this slow-cooker side today, then refrigerating the beans and reheating them to serve tomorrow. (If your slow cooker doesn’t have a flameproof insert, cook the bacon and sear the pork in a sauté pan before transferring them your slow cooker.) Look for a good-quality barbecue sauce that isn’t overly sweet or purchase a jar from a local barbecue joint where you like what is served. Accompany the dish with warm cornbread or garlic toast and creamy coleslaw.
Slow-Cooker Barbecue Beans and Pork
- 1 lb. (500 g) dried white beans such as navy or Great Northern
- 1/4 lb. (125 g) thick-cut pepper bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 lb. (500 g) boneless pork shoulder, in a single piece
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups (20 to 24 fl. oz./625 to 750 ml) good-quality bottled barbecue sauce
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) low-sodium chicken or beef broth
- 2 Tbs. whole-grain mustard
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar (optional)
1. Pick over the white beans, removing any misshapen beans or grit. Rinse under cold running water. Put the beans in a large bowl, add cold water to cover by at least 2 inches (5 cm), and let stand at room temperature overnight. Alternatively, for a quick soak, put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover by at least 2 inches, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and let soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans.
2. Put the flameproof insert of a slow cooker over medium heat, then add the bacon and fry until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the pork shoulder to the fat remaining in the insert and cook over medium heat, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the pork to a plate. Pour off the fat from the insert.
3. Transfer the insert to the slow cooker, add the drained beans, onion, bell pepper, barbecue sauce, broth, mustard, and the bacon. If the barbecue sauce is very sweet, do not add the sugar; if it is not very sweet, add the sugar, then stir together all of the ingredients to mix well. Nestle the pork in the bean mixture. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally if possible. Switch the heat to high and cook for 1 to 3 hours longer, stirring 2 or 3 times if possible. The beans should be very tender and the sauce should be thickened to your liking. The longer the mixture cooks, the thicker the sauce will become.
4. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
5. Spoon the pork and beans into a large serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Learn to make the most of your slow cooker with this and other inspiring recipes in our Quick Slow Cooking, by Kim Laidlaw.