In today’s modern hurry up world of prepared foods we sometimes lose touch with the way things were in them thar olden days, and that can limit our scope of planning for survival for tomorrow. We look at the wonderful array of long term storage foods, of which we merely need add boiling water to, or place the container in a heater pouch and voila! We have a lovely meal fit for a king and queen to eat. Well, that’s what we like to think sometimes. In reality this long term storage food is really nothing more than what we normally eat today. It is prepared better than it was in the olden days, with greater nutritional value remaining after the packaging process, but it is still just plain old food.

One of the things I miss about all of this new modernity in eating is the cooking and flavors that food had by being cooked the old ways. Dehydrated food may be just as wholesome as fresh, but boiling on a stove just isn’t the same. Baked beans, and in particular, bean hole beans are something that is incredibly difficult to find today. Beans are normally cooked on a stove, simmering overnight, or as most people do today, myself included, by simply opening a can and zapping them in the microwave. They’re still good, and I eat them frequently, but it just isn’t the same. So, I thought I’d search around for some recipe’s and see what I could find in the libraries of the internet.

I found that while there are many recipes for baked beans, there is only one hole. And that hole needs to be filled with red hot glowing coals of wood, and that bean pot needs to be covered completely with those coals to work. I found no reference to a kettle being simply placed on the embers. There is a good reason for this, and that is because the secret to a good meal of bean hole beans is to see that they are cooked uniformly, and that the container is sealed completely in order to force the beans to absorb all of the flavor of the ingredients.

Growing up we frequently had beans and rolls or biscuits, and they always tasted good, but never had the flavor that being cooked in a glowing hole can give them. Up in this neck of the woods the old time lumberjacks had bean hole beans nearly every day, including Sunday’s, sometimes with every one of their four daily meals. Beans have a lot of protein and in the long haul survival mode we may be required to live under soon, they will make an excellent staple to your larder. Make sure you have several buckets stored away for the family, and in the meantime, get out and learn how food was cooked before the microwave and boil in bag foods came along.

So, when you get bored of MREs and tin foil stew, look back at the past and cook yourself a big cast iron kettle of good old bean hole beans! Be creative, add molasses, onions and whatnot to suit, but remember the prime ingredients are always the bean itself, and a hunk of salt pork.

This first selection is from a 1903 Agricultural Bulletin as a report on the nutritional values of the food lumberjacks in the state of Maine consumed;


As will be seen by a glance at the kinds of food used in the dietaries, baked beans were the most important single article of diet. The beans are not baked in the cookroom, but in the bean hole, which is simply a hole in the ground protected by a small log building. The beans are parboiled during the forenoon in an ordinary iron kettle on the stove in the cookroom. The bean pot in which they are baked is of iron with an overhanging iron cover, and it is layered with alternate layers of salt pork and parboiled beans. A fire is then built in the bean hole with both soft and hard wood to a depth of 2 feet, and when well underway is covered with stones and old iron, when the covered pot of beans is suspended over the fire. By the time the pot of beans has been heated to the boiling point the fire is burned to coals, and the stones and pieces of iron are red hot. The pot of beans is then placed directly upon these, covered with hot ashes and earth and left to cook overnight, usually twelve to fourteen hours. In the morning the beans come from the hole steaming hot and are served for breakfast.


In the Maine lumber camps cream-of-tartar biscuit are seldom seen, but in place of these the cook makes what are termed sour-dough biscuits. The method of preparing this sour dough is as follows: In the fall of the year, at the beginning of the lumbering operations, flour, water, and lard are mixed to a stiff batter and allowed to remain near the fire from twelve to twenty-four hours. At the end of this time active fermentation (due to wild yeasts) has taken place, and the dough has a very pleasant sour taste and smell. This sour dough is turned on the kneading board and soda and salt are worked into it, after which it is shaped into biscuits and baked. Enough dough is mixed at each baking so that some may be left over to serve as a “starter” in souring the dough for the next baking.

How to Cook Beans, from Hunter-Trapper-Trader magazine;

Beans are the camper’s standby. To cook them properly you should have a pot that will hold one pint for each person. The cover should fit closely, and should extend an inch and a half over the edge. The bail should stand up at all times.

At about 4 o’clock P. M. pick over and •wash enough of the small white beans to make the pot one-fourth full and, filling the pot with water, let them boll until you can crush them by pinching between the thumb and finger. Then add a teaspoonful of soda and pour the water off. Cut up one pound of pork and put it in the beans, or If you don’t want such a rich dish use one-half .that amount. Now pour hot water on them and put them to boll again. Let them cook until soft but not so that they break up, and then add some molasses or sugar, about one-half teacup full, and if you have it about one-half that amount of tomato catsup. Now they are ready for the bean hole.

This bean hole should have had’ a fire made In it at least an hour before this, and by this time it will be full of red-hot coal*. Use hardwood. Rake out the coals and hot stones and set the kettle in the center, then put the coals back and cover. If the bean hole were not covered they would boil dry and burn. Properly done they will come out In the morning with a blue shade and with a flavor that can not be obtained by any other method of cooking.

BAKED BEANS, from the Outing: sport, adventure & travel magazine, vol. 47

Beans baked with a good hunk of pork suit my palate, but many people, especially in the East, like them sweetened with molasses, and the lumbermen enjoy them with sliced onions. Baked beans are always good when well cooked, and here is the way to do it with all the “fixin’s.” The onions and even the molasses may be left out by those who do not like them cooked that way. Fig No. 9 shows a cross section of a bean hole and a bean pot; also the arrangement of the inside much more graphically than I can describe it.

During the day parboil two quarts of beans until the shells come off. Slice an onion in a bean pot, then put in half the beans, then another sliced onion and the rest of the beans poured in, then put in two or three chunks of salt pork, and over the whole a tablespoonful of molasses, then just enough water to cover the beans. A hole dug in the ground and lined with rocks is the bean hole, and in this a good hot fire of fine split birch or hemlock bark must be built and kept going until the pit is filled with glowing cinders and the stone sides well heated, then the hot coals and ashes are shoveled out of the bean hole, and the bean pot, with lid tight in place, is placed on the bottom and the hot embers replaced, covering the pot as in the diagram. They will cook while you sleep, and if the bean hole is prepared at night a delicious dish awaits you in the morning.

  1. Rick says:

    Here is a story about a small town that cooks beans the old fashioned way. It’s a great tourist draw.

  2. […] Beans &#1072nd Biscuits f&#959r Survival « Surviving Th&#1077 Times […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s