Appalachian Cider Baked Beans

Appalachian Cider Baked Beans Recipe

The first time that I tasted cider beans was at the local gas station. Here in the mountains, folks gather at the local gas station to visit, have a meal, and catch up on the local news. Far from serving “fast food,” these little places present “home cookin’,” and it’s delicious. This good ol’ mountain recipe is very satisfying paired with cornbread or muffins.–Joan E. Aller

LC Big Ole Crock of Beans Note

Thanks to this recipe, we’re experiencing some serious ceramic bean pot envy. We want one. Those of you who have one, where’d you get yours?

Appalachian Cider Baked Beans Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 6 H, 15 M
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dried pinto beans
  • 3 cups fresh apple cider
  • 8 ounces salt pork, thinly sliced
  • 2 small yellow onions, peeled and left whole
  • 6 tablespoons molasses, preferably sorghum molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  • 1. To make the Appalachian Cider Beans in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation below.

    To make the Appalachian Cider Beans as God intended, in the oven, pick over the beans, discarding any stones and wrinkled beans. Rinse well and place in a large bowl. Add cold water to cover by 3 inches, cover, and let soak for 12 hours.
  • 2. Drain the beans and transfer them to a heavy saucepan. Add the cider and slowly bring the beans to a boil over medium heat. Gently boil, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C).
  • 4. Layer half of the salt pork slices on the bottom of a 2-quart ceramic bean pot or other deep baking dish, such as a Dutch oven. Spoon the beans into the pot and then bury the onions in the beans.
  • 5. In a small saucepan, combine the molasses, dry mustard, and salt and place over medium heat until the mustard and salt dissolve into the molasses. Pour the mixture evenly over the beans and top with the remaining salt pork slices. Add the reserved cooking liquid to the pot. Add hot water as needed to cover the beans with liquid. Cover the pot.
  • 6. Bake for 4 hours, then uncover the pot and add more water if the beans seem dry. Recover and continue to bake for 1 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Serve hot, directly from the pot.

Slow Cooker Variation

  • Making a big ole pot of baked beans just got even easier. Soak and drain the beans as in step 1 of the instructions above. Toss half of the salt pork in the slow cooker. Add the beans, onions, and apple cider, using your judgement when it comes to how much cider is necessary. (You want to use enough to just barely cover the beans by no more than 1/2 an inch; if this means you use less than the specified amount, that’s okay. If the cider doesn’t completely cover the beans, add enough cold water to barely cover them.) Stir together the molasses, mustard, and salt (warming the molasses slightly in the microwave or on the stovetop will make this easier). Pour the molasses mixture over the beans and then top with the remaining salt pork. Cook on high for 3 to 6 hours, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are tender and irresistibly fragrant, 1 to 4 more hours. (The beans are quite forgiving, and so can pretty much cook on whatever setting for however long, depending on your schedule.)

    [Editor’s Note: Bear in mind, no two slow-cookers are exactly alike, just as no two cooks are exactly alike. This slow-cooker approach worked really, really well for us, although if you have a different slow-cooker cooking technique you want to try by all means, do so. And, natch, we’d love if you’d share it with us in a comment below.]
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Jeremy Schweitzer

Jun 27, 2011

Wow! I don’t like baked beans or pork ‘n beans from a can. I don’t care how you doctor them with other stuff, I just don’t like them. That’s why this recipe was such a revelation. The beans cooked into creamy but distinct ovoids of flavor. The sauce is rich and a little salty but not overly sweet (something that I was worried about). The onions became jam-like and could be spooned over the beans after you served yourself a heaping serving, and the pork was transformed into some of the best braised pork belly I’ve had. I liked everything about this recipe. I didn’t have to add more liquid to the beans while they cooked and I baked mine for almost the full 6 hours.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Jun 27, 2011

My husband and I have a difference of opinion regarding beans. He likes classic baked beans. I usually find them sweet to the point of being unpalatable. These cider beans made us both happy. While there is a bit of sweetness from the cider and molasses, it’s not overpowering, and it’s balanced by plenty of tang. The beans were well-seasoned and delicious. The cooking time is long, but since it is mostly hands-off, there isn’t much work involved and you are free to pursue other projects while the beans bubble away in the oven.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Jun 27, 2011

This is a great way to make baked beans. The beans are not overly sweet and have a wonderful texture. We enjoyed the little bit of cider flavor as well as molasses and fat back in these. The onions that were buried in the beans tasted great as well. We ate ours with some pulled pork bbq. They would also be a good accompaniment to bbq chicken and with corn bread, as the recipe recommends. I’ll keep these in mind next time I need some beans as a side dish.

Testers Choice
Lynne Brenner

Jun 27, 2011

The recipe delivers on its promise of a “satisfying” result. The beans were not too sweet, had a nice hint of smoke, and the deep mahogany color lent visual appeal. The instructions were straightforward. I could not find fresh apple cider and substituted “Simply Apple” juice. I did need to add a bit more water after the initial 4 hours of baking. Though not a recipe lending itself to raving commentary, I found myself refilling my (small) bowl 3 times! For those who have only had baked beans from a can, try this and see what a few simple ingredients and a little patience can produce.

Testers Choice
Jennifer Piercy

Jun 27, 2011

This one is both easy and tasty. I was not able to find salt pork, so I used plain bacon, which also worked well. My 2-year-old and my husband both loved this one. We’ve been eating it for a couple of days, and I think the flavors get better over time, although they are good right out of the pot. Excellent with creamed spinach and corn bread!

Testers Choice
Vicki Lionberger

Jun 27, 2011

I very much liked the fact that this was not a tomato-based baked bean recipe. The cider proved to be a lighter tasting base for the beans. The recipe works well as written. I did have to add water a couple of times during the long cooking, but this was probably a function of the size of my Dutch oven. Next time I will freeze the salt pork so that I can get thinner slices. Mine were thick enough that when serving I found fatty pieces that my family did not care for. All in all, a good recipe.

Testers Choice
Linda B.

Jun 27, 2011

The beans have great flavor, and I couldn’t stop eating them. I used bacon instead of salt pork because that’s what I had available. I’d cook the beans longer in the apple cider (at least 1 hour) so the beans would be more tender before I put the molasses mixture on them. They never got as meltingly tender as I would have liked, but they tasted great!

Testers Choice
Rebecca Marx

Jun 27, 2011

Everything about this recipe, from its simplicity to its flavor, is revelatory. The cider lends everything an extra, lusty dimension, and the result—smoky, sweet, and savory—is pretty much everything you could ask for in a pot of baked beans. They make an ideal side dish and are also incredibly satisfying on their own. If ever a baked bean recipe could be said to be ambrosial, it’s this one. Almost everything about this recipe worked for me, from the measurements and cooking times to the groans of happiness from the people I served it to. The serving suggestion is just about right, unless of course people want seconds, which they will. There’s only one thing I’d change about the recipe: I found that the 3 cups of cider called for weren’t enough to submerge the beans during boiling. So I added an extra cup, and that worked well. As far as the amount of liquid I needed to add to the beans to prevent them from drying out as they baked, I added about 1 1/2 cups water over the course of about 3 hours – when I checked them at 2 hours they seemed dry, and then I added more around the 4 1/2-hour mark. How much water you add, and how long you need to cook the beans, really depends on how hot your oven runs. I recommend checking every hour to make sure the beans aren’t drying out. One other note: although the recipe calls for using a 2-quart vessel, I used a 5.5-quart cast-iron pot, so the surface area most likely affected how quickly the beans dried out.

Testers Choice
Rita C.

Jun 27, 2011

I think I’d like to try it because homemade baked beans are so far superior to canned and I’m never home for 6 hours straight to cook them unless it’s in a slow cooker. I’ve used my slow cooker for beans many times, and this recipe is very similar to one I have for Vermont Baked Beans. I would follow steps 1 and 2 exactly (or do a quick soak of the beans) and then layer the items as directed and cover everything with enough of the reserved cooking liquid to measure 1/2 inch If the cooking liquid isn’t enough, add a little boiling water. Then cover with the lid, cook on high to bring to a boil, and reduce to low for 8 to 10 hours. Add boiling water as necessary to keep the beans moist. Once they are very tender, you can remove the cover and cook to the desired consistency.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Jun 27, 2011

This was a fun recipe to adapt to the slow cooker. In wanting to make it simple, I elected not to simmer the beans with the cider but to instead add 2 cups cider to my soaked, uncooked beans in the slow cooker. First I placed some of the salt pork on the bottom of the crock-pot, layered the beans on top of the salt pork, and poured the cider on the beans. I then buried the onions in the beans. I heated the molasses in the microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. This was the perfect temperature for the mustard to blend into the molasses. I poured that on the beans and topped them with the remaining salt pork and set the slow cooker to high. I cooked the beans for 3 hours on high and set the slow cooker on low for 4 additional hours. While the beans could have used a bit more time in the slow cooker, the flavor was absolutely wonderful. The perfect balance of salty and sweet with deep flavors of molasses and mustard. I will definitely make these again, but I will plan on 10 hours in the slow cooker to get the beans to the point where they give up all resistance.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Jun 27, 2011

This recipe has been a favorite of my husband’s since the first time I tested it. I made the cider beans in a slow cooker over the weekend, and we liked it cooked in the slow cooker just much as the original version. My method was to skip the step where you simmer the beans in the cider. I just put the salt pork, beans, and onion into the pot, and added the cider. The cider was enough to just barely cover the beans, and since you don’t lose much liquid in a slow cooker, I did not add the additional water. Added the molasses mixture and put the last of the salt pork on top. I intended to cook this 8 to 10 hours on low, but I got a late start, so I cooked it 6 hours on high, then turned it to low for 1 hour at the end. We loved these the first time we had tested the recipe as-is, especially my husband, and we loved them again done in the slow cooker. The one thing that is different cooking beans in the slow cooker is that they tend to stay whole, and these were no exception. With none of the beans exploding or falling apart, the surrounding liquid doesn’t thicken up as much. Other than that, they tasted the same as before. If anything, I would cook them a little longer next time. Leftovers the next day were, if anything, even better.

Comments
Comments
  1. Ravnfyr says:

    Found my ceramic bean pot at a yard sale for 50 cents. Can’t beat that deal. :)

  2. Kimmy says:

    I’ve been dying for an amazing baked beans recipes. This looks to be it!

  3. Kgramlow says:

    I got my ceramic bean pot from my grandmother! Gotta love these :)

    • David Leite says:

      Jealous. All I have from my grandmother, VoVo Costa, are her china and turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers. I WISH I had a cooking pot or pan.

  4. Kimberley W. says:

    I made these last Saturday. I must tell you, I am a BEGINNER cook and had one prior failed attempt at making beans (not these). This time, however, I was bound and determined to get it right! My über-foodie friend agreed to sample them…got a solid approval from the foodie!! Thanks, folks, for such a great recipe. I’m looking forward to posting many, many more comments like this on other recipes as I journey down the road of culinary enlightenment! ;)

    • David Leite says:

      Kimberley, so glad to hear the beans turned out well. It’s a super recipe–one our testers loved.

  5. leduesorelle says:

    I’ve been lusting over the earthenware pots over at Bram Cookware (bramcookware.com), and the La Chamba cookware at Toque Blanche (mytoque.com). I finally splurged on a few La Chamba pieces and find them an utter joy to cook with — I find myself making excuses to use them, like trying out this recipe in my new bean pot!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We’re always happy to help rationalize a kitchen-related purchase, not to mention trying out a new recipe, leduesorelle. Tell us, what’d you think of the beans?

  6. Judy says:

    If you have a crockpot with a removable crock you can use it for a bean pot, especially if it’s one of the shallower oval ones. Saves having one more “one use” kitchen item crowding the cupboards.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Judy, we love a terrific tip such as yours that saves both space and money. Thank you!

  7. Kim Bee says:

    These made me fall off my chair. Okay, that’s a lie. I am relaxing in bed so I fell over onto comfy pillows. But still…I am totally trying these next weekend. I love beans. They usually hurt my tummy but I think it’ll be worth it. I mean, look at these things. Would a cast iron Dutch oven work as well as a bean pot? I have two I love so hoping they would work just as well.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kim, we love to hear that. Well, not the part about potentially feeling miserable after having this, but everything else. I don’t see any reason not to use your cast iron. If there were a terribly acidic ingredient, such as tomatoes, then I’d advise against it. But I think you’re good to go. Besides, I think that’s what they used back in the day for a big ole pot of beans, yes? Let us know how it goes….

  8. Lorna Fredd says:

    These were outstanding! Great flavor and texture, and so easy. The only tweaks I made were to add a healthy tablespoon of pure maple syrup for mild sweetness, and to add the salt pork in two large chunks so as to easily remove it at the end (just our personal preference). I’m not a baked bean fan, but we both loved this recipe, so it’s a keeper. Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Lorna, terrific to hear! And yes, as someone just said the other day, recipes are merely suggestions…love that you made this your own. Many thanks for letting us know how swell it went.

  9. Pamela Rose says:

    I was wondering what you would replace the salt pork with for a vegetarian dish without compromising too much of the flavor. Just salt? Or have you another idea? Many thanks in advance.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Pamela, I have a couple of suggestions from our testers. Using a bit of smoked paprika or liquid smoke will add to the richness of flavor. You could also dissolve some salt in warmed oil and drizzle it over the top.

    • Joan O. says:

      Pamela, you could add a big spoon full of peanut butter to the beans when you start cooking them with the cider. I’ve cooked my pintos for years with peanut butter instead of salt pork. When I first started doing this my hubby didn’t even realize I wasn’t using the pork anymore. When I told him I was seasoning them with peanut butter he was really surprised. He said he though I was still cooking them with the pork. It gives them a nice flavor and a thick juice. I learned this trick many years ago in Weight Watchers.

  10. qirien says:

    I tried these, but even though I cooked them in my slow cooker on high for 5 hours, and then another 3 on low, and then another 1 on high, the beans are crunchy and not soft at all. Maybe I shouldn’t have added the salt until the end?

    • David Leite says:

      qirien, adding salt to cooking beans can, indeed, cause them to remain hard. But this recipe calls for the salt to be added to the molasses mixture, and since our testers didn’t have a problem with that, I’m not sure if that’s the issue. Did you add additional salt? Also the age of the beans can make a huge difference.

      • Penny Wolf says:

        I’m a home cook but I was concerned about this very thing when I read the recipe. In the past I have had bad luck adding an acid too soon to beans of any kind. Maybe the cider varies in acidity, giving a varied result. I add salt at the end of cooking beans as the ground they grew from determines their need for it or not. I want to try this recipe using a hard cider but I’m cooking the beans just until tender..naked (the beans). Then proceed to dress them and I’ll have to change the baking time.

        • Beth Price says:

          Hi Penny, I understand your concern but to reiterate David, our testers loved them and didn’t have this issue. I’m curious to hear how your method turns out, please let us know.

      • John Iwanicki says:

        REACHING OUT TO HIM B I made these twice because the first time the beans were slightly crunchy (7 hours) – not creamy as I expected. The second time after 9 hours in a cast iron pot I got the same result. The flavor is nice but there is something going on with the texture of the beans. I doubt if I will give this a third go round. Don’t know how your testers did it.

        • David Leite David Leite says:

          John, beans are tricky because recently dried beans can look the same as beans that have been forgotten at the back of the cupboard for years. I didn’t have crunchy beans when I made this recipe, but I absolutely have had it happen before. The three biggest culprits for crunchy beans are age, acid, and salt. As this recipe has no acid in it and the salt is added later, I think the age of the beans could be the issue. I suggest getting top quality beans. I like Rancho Gordo. Excellent products. Also, you can try cooking the beans longer in step 2.

  11. Hilary says:

    Best. Beans. Ever. I couldn’t find salt pork so I got some sliced pork belly and I cured it in salt/brine overnight and used that. Turned out pretty darn good if you asked me! And, the house smells SO good. I made it using the stove/oven method in my dutch oven and next time I’ll be trying it in the slow cooker while I go to work. Yum!

  12. Holly Hanks says:

    I’ve been waiting to make this until I found the bean pot I wanted. I’ve had my eye on them on eBay where they are fairly plentiful, but actually came across one in a local antique shop yesterday (the exact one I wanted!). Soooo excited to make this! Check eBay with a stoneware bean pot search—there are good deals on pretty nice ones (I collect the “brown drip” style from McCoy myself. :)) Thanks for the recipe! I already know its going to rock my world.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Holly, you are so very welcome! I can’t wait to hear what you think of the recipe. And thanks for the eBay tip, I know I appreciate it and I’m certain many others will as well. Okay, standing by at the ready to hear how this rocked your world…!

  13. Lin says:

    I cooked these yesterday and we ate them today. The only change I made was to use Canadian bacon from my local farmer instead of the salt pork. Our house still smells so good! We loved the hint of molasses and cider and the 2 tsp. salt was perfect for us. I did have to add hot water twice, but then I did not have a bean pot. I will be making these again. They sure taste and smell like fall!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Swell to hear, Lin! I think the Canadian bacon is an inspired tweak. So lovely to know that you’ve got a new autumn staple in your repertoire…

  14. Martha in KS says:

    About 40 years ago I bought my mother a beautiful hand-thrown pottery casserole at a artists fair. She put it in a cupboard & never used it—I think she was afraid it would ruin it. When she passed away I brought it home & I’ve never used it, either. I think it’s time to make some beans!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Martha, love that. Everything about that. I think it’s time, too.

    • Lorna Fredd says:

      As a potter myself, it gladdens my heart to know that you’re welcoming that hand-thrown piece into your kitchen–it was made to be used! Food tastes better when prepared or served in something crafted with love. Joyous clay for everyday…it’s what I do. Enjoy!

  15. Kelly Lott says:

    An authentic bean pot? Look no further than Leroux Kitchen in Portland, Maine. That’s where I got mine, and the store is definitely worth a visit (as is Portland). But you can also order your bean pot from Leroux Kitchen for $25 plus $9 shipping (very reasonable for a pot which may become an heirloom). My bean pot was made in Maine and hopefully those are still the ones they carry.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kelly, this is terrific information, thank you SO much! I know I’m not the only one who’s grateful to learn this…

  16. Mike says:

    I made this with some locally made cane syrup because I have an aversion to molasses. Great recipe and very tasty!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Perfect, Mike. I love when someone can tweak a recipe to make it more their own as you just did. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know how well it worked.

  17. Lara says:

    What’s sorghum molasses vs other molasses? Please explain the different types.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Lara, great question! Sorghum molasses is made from sorghum cane, a grass like plant that was used by early settlers. Molasses is made from sugar cane. They are both used as a sweetener in many baked goods as well as baked beans.

      • Lara says:

        Thanks, Beth. I’ve been confused about molasses types before when reading baking recipes. For ex. sulphured, unsulphured, blackstrap, etc. Perhaps this site could do a feature some time reviewing the kinds of molasses and what’s good for what type of cooking/recipe.

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