Custom Publication of the Bangor Daily News

Zen and the art of beanhole beans

Posted June 20, 2012, at 11:52 a.m.
A re-enactor prepares beanhole beans at Leonard's Mills in Bradley. The beans are cooked in a pot lowered into a hole in the ground.
Leonard's Mills
A re-enactor prepares beanhole beans at Leonard's Mills in Bradley. The beans are cooked in a pot lowered into a hole in the ground.

It’s a bonafide recipe for success: Bury containers of baked beans in a hole filled with hot coals for 24 hours and what emerges will be a succulent taste of history.

In fact, bean hole beans date back to the Native Americans. Then logging companies carried on the tradition. But keep this in mind: True bean hole beans aren’t just dumped from can to container. There’s a trick to them.

And it’s all about the preparation.

It starts with the shelling of the dry beans, which are then soaked. Next, a pit is dug deep enough to lower a metal container into the ground. Once the hole is dug, firewood is lowered inside, and a fire is started. The fire burns until the wood is reduced to hot coals, then the red-hot coals are removed. Prepared containers are filled with the soaked beans as well as other flavorings and additives, such as salt pork and onion.

The containers, complete with lids, are lowered into the hot hole and covered with the hot coals and dirt. Some people go one step farther and cover the hole with tarps or metal to keep the heat in. For the next 24 hours, the beans bubble, simmer, and steep, creating a unique taste unmatched by conventional baked beans.

After 24-hours, the process is reversed, with the beans removed and presented for serving.

Some places to get bean hole beans this summer

• Leonard’s Mills Historic Settlement Summer Living History Days, July 14-15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children.

• Rangeley Lakes Logging Museum Festival Days, July 29-30. For more information, (207) 864-5551

• Harpswell Scout Association’s annual bean hole bean supper, Aug. 11, 5-7 p.m., Mitchell Field on Route 123 in South Harpswell. Admission is $12. Proceeds benefit Harpswell Boy and Girl Scouts.

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