Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bean Hole Beans (?!)

It’s end of summer and the rainy season roared in with a vengeance—three to 15 inches of rain in northern CA. Great start to the rainy season. Didn’t add hardly anything to the reservoirs and thus the drought continues.

Alas, the beginning of the rainy season means the end to the “bean hole” season. I’ve been cooking beans underground in a Dutch oven buried under 12 inches of sand for 20-24 hours for over 15 years. People beg me to prepare a pot of bean-hole beans when they are invited to an evening of food and conviviality.

I started by digging hole big enough to be able to line it with bricks and still have enough space to accommodate a Dutch oven with room to spare. My hole is lined with bricks and as well as the bottom and is about 24 inches deep.

I soak the beans for at least 2 days and change the water two to four times, I cheat a bit and use a pressure cooker to soften the beans a bit, but make sure they are still firm. (These steps plus the slow cooking time seem to make for flatulence-free beans.)

The next part of the “recipe” starts with a large fire fed by scrap wood–hardwoods work the best–to develop a huge pile of hot coals and to store plenty of heat in the bricks. Takes 3-4 hours depending on the wood. (I live in dry-land forest. For protection, I make a cone of ¼ inch hardware clothe to trap the occasional drifting ember. There’s also a gravel four-foot radius circle around the bean hole for extra protection. And I hose down the nearest foliage.)

Next I take out ½ of the coals into a metal wheelbarrow. Put the Dutch oven filled with the “secret” bean mixture in with a few layers of moist newspaper to protect from getting sand in the Dutch oven. Then the rest of the coals go back on top of the Dutch oven. Sand is added to mound up to 12 inches above the top of the Dutch oven. The beans slow cook for 20-24 hours for eating the next evening.

[Footnote: I found some discarded clay features that look like a large spine. I added them next to the bean hole to prove this was an ancient BBQ place dating back generations and when lost Italians in the 1800s (many of my neighbors are Italian) stopped to feed themselves.]

Here, never revealed before is my “secret recipe” for the bean-hole beans.

Bean Hole Beans Recipe

2# beans, kidney, black, or white (slightly pre-cooked in a pressure cooker)

½# bacon (Can be deleted by vegetarians, vegans, the overweight, or potential heart attack victims.)

3 TBS Mustard

¾ TBS black pepper, freshly ground

½ cup dark molasses

2 (or more) large heads of garlic, peeled and diced into big chunks or left whole

1 cup of your favorite hot sauce

1TBS chopped rosemary leaves

1 TBS or less, fresh-ground French roast coffee grounds (The real secrete ingredient.

Combine all the ingredients and fill the Dutch oven.

My oven is big enough to feed six to eight people, depending on their waist size.

You can cook the beans for hours in a Dutch oven in an oven. But where’s the fun in that!


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