Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bachelor cooking with #2 Son - Lumberjack Beanhole Baked Beans

Yeah, I need to do this with #1 Son as well, but he's up in Yankeeland visiting his friends, so #2 Son and I made dinner.

Maine Lumberjack Beanhole Beans

I first had this probably in the late 1960s, almost certainly at a Cub Scout dinner.  I loved it then, and it's one of the dishes that I still love (Dad used to make it, and maybe that's what inspired me to make this with #2 Son - I used to make it with Dad).

So what's a beanhole?

Back in the Old Days of the 1820s - 1950s, lumberjacks would head out into the Maine woods without much in the way of heavy equipment.  Or light equipment.  Or refrigeration.  You get the idea.  It was a Man's world in the deep forest, where they would cut down trees with axes and 2 man saws, and horse them (with actual horses, hence the expression) to the river to float down to the saw mill.  I actually went to the last log drive on the Penobscot* river, back in '71 or '72.

So what do you eat when you're out in the woods for a month?  Beans.  But you need to doctor them up to make them good, which is what we do here.  The beanhole was essentially a Maine luau - you dig a hole, build a fire in it, let it burn down to coals, put the wrapped (well, contained in a Dutch Oven) food it, cover it with earth, and leave it all the day.  At the end of the day you dig up your hot dinner.


2 big cans of baked beans.  This is the basic foundation upon which we will build.  If you're a purist, you can use dried beans (which is what they used, Back In The Day), but that's a lot more work and this is bachelor cooking, remember?  Extra points if you have B&M Baked Beans (from the South Portland, ME factory), but you probably can't get those outside New England.  I used Bush's.

4 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/3" "lardons" (wee little bacon matchsticks)

1 polish sausage, cut into 1/2" lengths

1 large onion, minced with Madame Guillotine.

2 tablespoons of ground coffee.  Yes, ground coffee.  This is the secret ingredient, and you will not want to skip this.

(optional) 2 tablespoons Rudy's BBQ rub (or equivalent).  #2 Son likes it.  So do I.  Your mileage may vary.

(optional) 1/4 cup maple syrup.  I find that it gets too sweet, but if you're cooking for kids, this will likely make it very much like what I had at that Cub Scout dinner, so many years ago.

You won't need salt or pepper because the beans will have plenty.


In a big dutch oven, fry up the bacon and reserve in a dish.

Fry the polish sausage not to cook (it will almost certainly come cooked) but rather to brown.  This is important - browning meat is one of the best tricks you can teach a young bachelor, because you add a lot of flavor.  Reserve with the bacon.

Pour out most (all but a tablespoon) of the bacon fat, and brown the onion.  You want brown, not wilted.  I go past the golden brown stage to the brown brown stage.

Add the beans and scrape the bottom vigorously to get all the crusty bits into the mixture.  This "pan scab" has a ton of flavor.  Do not skip this step or you'll make Baby Epicurus cry.

Add the coffee, (optional) rub, and meat.  Cover.  Bang it into a 350° oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  I guess you could serve it with some sort of vegetation if you want.  Hey, onion is a vegetable, right?

Invite all of #2 Son's bachelor friends over for manly Lumberjack Beanhole baked beans.  Watch to make sure they don't steal your beer (they're still 18).

* Hilariously, Blogger's spell check suggest "Pentecost" as a correction for "Penobscot".  The lumberjacks would have laughed at that.


Goober said...

Pan scour is the proper term, I think. Pan scab sounds less appetizing.

If I had one piece of advice for people trying to learn to cook well, moving beyond basic "make things that are safe to eat" and into "make things that are good to eat," I would recommend learning how to properly de-glaze a pan.

You know those sticky bits that get stuck to the bottom of a pan when you're cooking meat and other proteins?

Yeah, you're going to want that in your fod, strangely enough, because it tastes awesome.

So find some liquid that will match the dish (white wine for seafood, red wine for red sauces and italian/cajun food, chicken broth for chicken, soy sauce for asian cuisine or just plain old water) and use a very small amount of it in the pan to steam that scour back up off the pan, and mix everything together. Trust me, it is awesome.

You can also make badass gravy this way.

Unless you've scorched it all... then don't do it.

greg said...

Growing up in New England, B&M are my preferred beans...and you can actually find them at Safeway out here in Washington...no one else, just Safeway.

As good as the beans are, my guilty pleasure is a can of B&M Brown Bread(with Raisins, unless you are a commie bastard, warmed in tinfoil with plenty of butter.

Dave H said...

No biscuits?

kx59 said...

I just know there's a "Blazing Saddles" joke here somewhere but I just can't put my finger on it.

Borepatch said...

Goober, yes "deglaze" is the proper term. ;-)

Greg, I haven't found Safeway here in Dixie. Used to shop there in Maryland, and I'm certain I got the B&M beans there.

Dave, I was lazy.

kx59, that's "Hedley"!

c-90 said...

You can even get B&M beans in the can or jar in Fla. BUT the "bean counters" got rid of the gorgeous chunk of pork fat, that used to be in every can/jar. The Bastards! 8*(


Michael Brahier said...

That sounds great. I'm going to try that.

2cents said...

1971 was the last log run on the Penobscot. 1976 on the Kenebec was the last one in Maine. Do you remember the log rolling competitions as a kid when they actually done by guys would danced on logs for a living?