|Common Ground’s Bean Hole Beans –
Continuing a Tradition
Click here to read our story about cooking “Bean Hole Beans” at the Common Ground Country Fair
by Roberta Bailey
When I first farmed in Maine, I would set up a little table in the garage by the road and sell produce. Each week on Fridays, the same women would stop to buy summer cabbage and early carrots. Friday night was baked bean, cole slaw and corn bread night in that rural town, and once I caught on to the pattern, I did pretty well with my stand.
We gently co-existed, these women, whose families had lived in the town for generations, and I, with the bright eyes and endless questions. I learned so much from them, and I probably gave them something different to talk about and, hopefully, a few good laughs.
I remember the winter that I joined their quilting group, one woman gently asked me if I would leave the baby beets on the beet greens when I sold them to her that next spring. And I remember four of the older women sitting in the kitchen of my log cabin, having tea and a visit. One of them was looking at my rough sawn hemlock floor and said to another, “Why Elsie, didn’t you used to scrub the rough wood floors in your old kitchen?” Elsie’s eyes quickly went to the darkened area around my cook stove, then back to her tea. “Well, yes, Ina, I did scrub those floors.” She took a sip of tea and added, “Yes, you can scrub rough wood, it just takes a little extra, that’s all.” To this day, I get a good chuckle from that scene.
I loved our local bean suppers. They were usually buffet-style and included at least four or five kinds of baked beans. They were made with Navy Pea beans, Yellow Eyes, Kidneys, Marfax and Soldier beans. Every family had strong opinions about which beans made the best baking beans.
Over the dozen years I lived in the town, I sat next to many families at bean dinners and came to hear about and learned to appreciate the merits of all the different types of beans. They all made excellent baked beans.
Here are some recipes to accompany baked bean dinners. I hope my old friends would approve; I didn’t have the foresight to collect their recipes. Try these side dishes and take some to a public bean supper. If they’re not quite right, hopefully someone will give you a gentle suggestion, and you will be able to recognize it as just that.
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk
4 to 8 Tbsp. honey, depending on how sweet you want it
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch-square pan or medium cast iron frying pan with butter or margarine. (The recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9- x 12-inch pan) Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir the wet mix into the dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Spread in the greased pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center is firm to touch.
Steamed Boston Brown Bread
(I keep a few cans with straight sides just for steaming bread. Keep an eye open for such cans. Malt mixes for home brewing come in cans without ridges. Pudding molds can be used. Ridged cans may be used if lined with parchment instead of being greased.)
Have all ingredients at room temperature.
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. rye or white flour
1 c. wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Combine wet ingredients:
2 c. buttermilk or half milk and half yogurt
3/4 c. molasses
1 c. raisins, whole or chopped
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into well-greased cans or pudding molds, filling them no more than three-fourths full. Seal the molds or cover the cans with foil and tie shut.
Steam for 3 hours in 1 inch of water OR pressure can by adding 2 c. hot water to the pressure canner, steaming over low heat for 15 minutes without pressure (valve open), then cooking for 30 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Reduce heat instantly. Remove from cans to cool.
Cole Slaw with Options
Chop or coarsely grate one small head of cabbage. Grate one or two carrots. Toss with cabbage. Add mayonnaise to coat and 1 to 4 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar. Salt to taste. Options include celery or dill seed, raisins, chopped dill pickles, minced parsley, celery, onion, green pepper, chives, grated celeriac, fresh dill weed or anchovies.
Another dressing option is ¼ to 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp. sugar or honey Salt and pepper to taste. Mix and toss with slaw.
For the Filling:
6 c. fresh or frozen blackberries, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. white flour
For the batter:
2 c. flour
1 c. plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. soy or dairy milk
8 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the berries, sugar and flour and pour into a lightly greased, nonreactive, 15-inch baking pan. Combine the flour, 1 c. sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and melted butter and beat until smooth. Spoon the batter over the berries, spreading it evenly and pressing it against the edges to avoid spills. Sprinkle the remaining sugar and the nutmeg over the top. Bake the cobbler in the center of the oven until the berries are bubbling and the crust is browned and crisp, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes before serving.