March 29, 2008

Saturday Night in Maine Means Beans!

And a Recipe for Bert's Beans

Ahhh, yes, Saturdays in Maine do mean baked beans! Not just at the bean suppers that happen in town and church halls al over the state on Saturday nights, but at home too. While the traditional public supper offerings include three kinds of beans, cole slaw, biscuits, and homemade pies for dessert, at home you can tailor this inexpensive yet nutritious meal to meet your family's tastes.

Bert, who bakes beans for our church suppers several times a year, also cooks a potful at home every few weeks, and he's come up with a delicious combination of beans. He uses at least two kinds cooked together, usually meaty Jacob's cattle, pinto or kidney beans with maybe some pea beans other smaller beans. With the molasses, mustard, onions, and salt pork, this makes a fragrant and tasty meal.

We usually have corn bread, sometimes with whole kernel corn and some red pepper flakes mixed in or once in a while with chopped green pepper and onion (much like making hush puppies). We may have cole slaw or a salad, but I have to put homemade chunky applesauce on the table too.

Old New Englanders used to have the leftover beans (and pies if any were still hanging around) for breakfast on Sunday mornings. We're more likely to have beans over split and toasted pieces of leftover cornbread for lunch. And if Bert's made a big batch of beans, I use the extra to make the Baked Bean Soup in The Frugal Family Kitchen Book.

I'm including Bert's Baked Bean Recipe here, but remember, like most good cooks, it's hard for him to list exact measurements.

Bert's Baked Beans

#2 lbs. dry beans - all one kind or use a mix
1 c molasses
1 c white sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
2 medium onions
1 chunk of salt pork, scored on the top - When we raised pigs, Bert liked to use the ham hocks.

Soak beans overnight, covering them with plain water. In the morning, simmer the beans in that liquid for about 40 minutes, then add the molasses, sugar, dry mustard, pepper, onions, and salt pork. Put into beanpot. Yes, you'll have leftover liquid which you should save to baste the beans during their cooking time. The beans cook at 275 about 5-6 hours, and you should check once in a while, adding some of the reserved liquid if needed. Sometimes Bert adds a little extra molasses or dry mustard to the basting liquid. You want the beans to be cooked yet still firm. To test, take out a spoonful and gently blow on them.- the skins should split - then taste them to be sure they're as you like them.

Even if you aren't lucky enough to spend your Saturday nights in Maine, you can join in this wonderful, inexpensive, nutritious and delicious tradition!


No comments: