Best Beans - Outdoor Skills
Best Beans - Outdoor Skills
A man may be a trout-crank, he may have been looking forward for ten weary months to the time when he is to strike the much dreamed of mountain stream, where trout may be taken and eaten without stint. Occasionally—not often—his dream is realized. For two or three days he revels in fly-fishing, and eating brook trout. Then his enthusiasm begins to subside. He talks less of his favorite flies, and hints that wading hour after hour in ice-water gives him cramps in the calves of his legs. Also, he finds that brook trout, eaten for days in succession, pall on the appetite. He hankers for the flesh-pots of the restaurant, and his soul yearns for the bean-pot of home.
Luckily, some one has brought a sack of white beans, and the expert—there is always an expert in camp—is deputed to cook them. He accepts the trust, and proceeds to do it. He puts a quart of dry beans and a liberal chunk of pork in a two quart kettle, covers the mess with water, and brings it to a rapid boil. Presently the beans begin to swell and lift the lid of the kettle; their conduct is simply demoniacal. They lift up the lid of the kettle, they tumble out over the rim in a way to provoke a saint, and they have scarcely begun to cook. The expert is not to be beaten. As they rise, he spoons them out and throws them away, until half of the best beans being wasted, the rest settle to business. He fills the kettle with water and watches it for an hour. When bean-skins and scum arise he uses the spoon; and when a ring of greasy salt forms around the rim of the kettle, he carefully scrapes it off, but most of it drops back into the pot. When the beans seem cooked to the point of disintegration, he lifts off the kettle, and announces dinner. It is not a success. The larger beans are granulated rather than cooked, while the mealy portion of them has fallen to the bottom of the kettle, and become scorched thereon, and the smaller beans are too hard to be eatable. The liquid, that should be palatable bean soup, is greasy salt water, and the pork is half raw. The party falls back, hungry and disgusted. Even if the mess were well cooked, it is too salt for eating. And why should this be so? Why should any sensible man spend years in acquiring an education that shall fit him for the struggle of life, yet refuse to spend a single day in learning how to cook the food that must sustain the life? It is one of the conundrums no one will ever find out.
There is no article of food more easily carried, and none that contains more nourishment to the pound, than the bean. Limas are usually preferred, but the large white marrow is just as good. It will pay to select them carefully. Keep an eye on grocery stocks, and when you strike a lot of extra large, clean beans, buy twice as many as you need for camp use. Spread them on a table, a quart at a time, and you will be surprised to find how rapidly you can separate
the largest and best from the others. Fully one-half will go to the side of largest and finest, and these may be put in a muslin bag, and kept till wanted. Select the expeditionary pork with equal care, buying nothing but thick, solid, "clear," with a pink tinge. Reject that which is white and lardy. With such material, if you cannot lay over Boston baked beans, you had better sweep the cook out of camp.
This is how to cook them: Put a pound or a little more of clean pork in the kettle, with water enough to cover it. Let it boil slowly half an hour. In the mean time, wash and parboil one pint of beans. Drain the water from the pork and 'place the beans around it; add two quarts of water and hang the kettle where it will boil steadily, but not rapidly, for two hours. Pare neatly and thinly five or six medium sized potatoes, and allow them from thirty to forty minutes (according to size and variety), in which to cook. They must be pressed down among the beans so as to be entirely covered. If the beans be fresh and fine they will probably fall to pieces before time is up. This, if they are not allowed to scorch, makes them all the better. If a portion of the pork be left over, it is excellent sliced very thin when cold, and eaten with Dread. The above is a dinner for three or four hungry men.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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