Sunday, March 13, 2005

Drifting Sidebars and How to Cook Beans in a Hole

The sidebar to 'Round the Chuckbox is once again buried deep below the last post. I've isolated the problem to the "Lemony Chicken and Rice" post of Friday night.

This is a service we periodically provide at 'Round the Chuckbox
-- give illustrations that demonstrate old fashion cooking methods that yield good grub.

Take bean-hole beans, for instance. Chuckwagon cooks would on occasion dig a hole, burn a mess of hardwood down to red coals and bury a pot of beans.

Eight to 12 hours later the cook would extract the pot. Just like this modern cook who'll be soon rewarded with a solution to his struggles with drifting sidebars, cowpokes could taste the cook's patience as succulent beans slid down to their stomachs.


The first step to cooking bean-hole beans is dig a fire hole. Horsewoman, ranch wife and chuckwagon cook Stella Hughes describes the process in Chuckwagon Cookin' by (University of Arizona Press: Tucson, 1974):

Dig a hole in good well-drained area not too close to large trees (the roots hinder diggin'). For one-pot meals, beans or roasts, the hole should be at least two feet deep by two and a half feet wide at the top. Burn hardwood in the hole for at least an hour. There must be six inches of good red coals for meat dishes and more for bean-hole beans. Be sure hole is not wet. If hole is damp you may have to burn fire for longer period of time.

Be sure no large burning chunks or pieces of charred wood are in the hole when oven is put in. Just good red coals with some blue flame.

2 cups pinto beans
1/2 pound salt pork
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1-1/2 quarts water

Wash beans and put into 12-inch Dutch oven with lid, salt pork, onions and garlic. If pork is very salty you need not salt beans. Add pepper to taste. Put lid on tight and bury Dutch oven in bed of coals and cover completely with dirt. Leave overnight.

Be sure there are no airholes for heat to escape. At least a foot of dirt packed smoothly is best.

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