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Maines Heritage and Outdoor Tradition: "Bean Hole Beans"

Maine Guide Company is Eagerly awaiting the kick off our beloved tradition of Bean Hole Beans! Come and gather 'round the fire for a hearty, delicious bean suppa cooked to perfection. Whether you're a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a newcomer to the Maine way of life in the outdoors, this tradition promises warmth, camaraderie, and unforgettable flavors for everyone. Spend the night, take a hike, or lets us help your Bangor concert experience. We can get you there!


I want to share with you the history/heritage behind “bean hole beans” in Maine followed by some pictures, a recipe, and the step by step process of making "bean hole beans". This blog is for everyone and anyone wanting explore the method and adventure of this Maine tradition and heritage so you too can enjoy your very own personal experience of baking beans in a hole in the ground otherwise known as “bean hole beans”.



This Maine tradition of bean hole bean suppers dates back to the early days of the logging industry when workers in remote logging camps would cook large pots of beans in holes dug into the ground. The certainty is that bean hole beans have been a staple of our Maine suppers for over 300 years and deeply ingrained in our state’s cultural heritage. The tradition of cooking beans in a hole in the ground dates back to the Native Americans of Maine, who utilized the method to cook their own food. Eventually when European settlers arrived in Maine, the method was adopted and they began adding their own seasonings to the beans.



Bean hole bean methods were popular when the logging industry was flourishing in Maine. Loggers and Maine guides alike would spend long periods of time in the woods, often far from any established settlements. This modeled the need for a hearty, filling meal that could be cooked on-site with minimal equipment. Bean hole beans became the perfect solution. Easily cooked in large quantities, requiring minimal ingredients, bean hole beans could be left to cook slowly while the cook could go about and tend other business.


Maine guides played an important role in the development of the bean hole bean tradition because we as outdoorsmen were highly skilled at living off the land and prided ourselves in cooking delicious meals in the wilderness. Maine Guides often lead groups of hunters and fishermen on extended trips into the woods, where bean hole beans were a staple of the menu.



Today, bean hole beans are still a popular dish in Maine. While the tradition of bean hole beans can be said to have its roots in the logging, and guiding industry alike, it has become a cherished part of Maine's cultural heritage and a way for communities to come together and celebrate their history and traditions through community suppers. Although this tradition of cooking beans in a hole in the ground may have originated with the Native Americans, it was the loggers and guides of Maine who helped to popularize this delicious and uniquely Maine dish.



The process of preparing bean hole beans (our way below) can be a time-consuming but rewarding process that requires careful planning and preparation. The beans, typically navy or soldier beans, are soaked overnight before being cooked for several hours with salt pork, molasses, and other seasonings. Maine Guide Company has adopted the use of heritage State of Maine Yellow Eyed beans as a preferred bean in our own traditions. The beans are placed in a large pot and lowered into a hole in the ground lined deeply with coals. The hole is covered with dirt, and the beans are left to cook slowly overnight. The results are a flavorful and hearty dish traditionally served with hot dogs, brown bread, coleslaw, and other traditional New England sides. Our way is not “The Only Way” it is only one way that works best for us.


Your Very Own Bean Hole Beans (DIY)


Before you begin cooking your very own bean hole beans, you need create your bean hole. Begin this process by digging a hole 4-6" larger than the pot and at least 2 feet deep, my hole is 3' deep by 18" round. There are many ways to prep your bean hole and most common is to line your hole with stones to hold heat. Build a fire in the hole with hard wood of your choice. Burn the fire until the wood has turned to hot coals. Once the bean hole is full of coals (rocks are hot), move the coals outside the hole leaving 3-5" of hot coals in the bottom of the hole. At this point, you can place your prepared pot into the bean hole.



Ingredients:

2lbs State of Maine Yellow Eye Beans 1 pound salt pork 2 onions 1/3 cups molasses

1/3 cups maple syrup

1/2 cups of Brown Sugar 2 teaspoons dry mustard 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Onion Powder 2-3 tablespoons onion powder

Fresh garlic to your liking



Directions:

  • Soak beans overnight in water.

  • The next day, start fire in bean hole filling the entire whole with hardwood coals. When the coals are established drain and rinse the beans (save water).


  • In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, place onions peeled and cut in the bottom of pot.

  • Add the beans to the pot.

  • In a sauce pan combine water from soaked beans, molasses, brown sugar, onion powder, maple syrup, salt and pepper and heat till dissolved.

  • Cut slices of the salt pork and place them on top of the beans

  • Add whole garlic cloves (optional)

  • Add mixed ingredients to cover the beans by about 1 inch.

  • Cover the entire pot with heavy duty foil.

  • Extract coals from the bean hole with a steel shovel and place in wheel barrel leave 3-5" of coals in the bottom of the hole.

  • Lower pot of beans to sit on top of 3-5" of coals, dump remaining coals from wheel barrel over the top of the beans.

  • Cover bean hole with dirt.

  • Let it cook for 24 hours.

  • Use a shovel to clear the dirt. Then, remove the pot.


Note: Before cooking the bean hole beans, you will need to prepare the bean hole as instructed above.




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