Happy Year of Pulses! The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2016 the Year of Pulses, so I've decided to do a blog series discussing what pulses are and why they are important. This is just one of many posts discussing the magical world of beans and other pulses. To learn more check out some of my other posts here.
Cooking beans in a hole in the ground is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. It was practiced by many Native American groups, who cooked their beans in conical clay pots on embers underground. Once white settlers came to the Americas the cast iron dutch oven became the standard for bean holes but many of the techniques and ingredients changed little. It became particularly popular in New England with homesteaders and later, with loggers. Bean holes were also used by miners, pioneers heading westward, and cattlemen. It was especially convenient for pioneers who could let the beans cook all night and have a hot meal before traveling again the next morning. Really anyone looking to feed a lot of people a hot and hardy meal without a lot of tending is a perfect candidate for using a bean hole.
The basic premise here is to dig a hole, make a fire in it, throw your dutch oven full of beans, cover it with soil, and wait 6-8 hours or overnight. In the morning, dig it up and enjoy.
I made bean hole beans yesterday using this simple, traditional recipe:
- 2 lbs beans (I used Jacob's Cattle, a traditional New England favorite)
- 2 lbs of the fattiest venison you can get, cubed (you can substitute another meat too)
- 1 cup maple syrup
Dig a hole in the earth about twice and wide and tall as your dutch oven. Line the bottom and sides of the hole with rocks. Do not use river rocks, they will explode. You can also use wheel rims or old chains. You just need something that will hold onto the heat. Then, build large fire in the hole until there is a solid bed of coals. I also built a fire next to the hole so I would have extra coals, but I mostly did this because I was in a rush. The time this takes depends on the size of your dutch oven. If you have a 3-4 quart pot (this is what I used) it may take an hour or two to build up 3-4 inches of coals. If you are using a huge 12 quart pot it may take 4-6 hours to build up 6-8 inches of coals. I found that using mostly smaller pieces of wood worked best as they created coals much more quickly. You do want to throw in a couple larger pieces though, that will sustain the heat longer.
Fill your dutch oven with the beans (presoaked), the cubed meat, and the maple syrup. Cover with water so it is an inch above the top of the beans. Put the lid on and lower onto the fire, let it boil for 15 minutes just to get the beans started. Pull it out and let your fire burn down to embers. Lower it back in and put hot rocks and embers on top of the lid. If you have a second fire, put coals from that fire on top. Cover with dirt. Stomp the soil down so that no air can get in or out, or else your food may burn.
After 6-8 hours, or the next morning, dig it up, brush the dirt off, and serve with extra maple syrup drizzled on top.
This version is what the Passamaquoddy and the Abenaki would have enjoyed in this area. Here is a version more similar to what white settlers would have eaten and what many eat today:
- 2 lbs dry weight beans, soaked
- 2 lbs cubed salt pork, ham hock, or pork belly
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 onion
- 1-2 tablespoons mustard
- opt: 1 stick of butter
Follow same directions as above.
This post was submitted to the blog hop on Essential Homestead's blog as well as at Idlewild Alaska's blog. Go check out these great sites, submit your own post, and find some new bloggers to follow!
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