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~ Campfire or Stovetop -- Dutch-Oven-Baked Beans ~

IMG_3159Manifest Destiny, the 19th-century doctrine that the United States had the right and duty to expand throughout the North American continent, brought the cowboys and their cattle drives up through Mexico and Texas and into the wide-open grazing spaces of Colorado and northward into the Midwest.  These (often accidental) East-meets-West crossover points are where Easterners, bound for the Southwest and West, often encountered their first tastes of their final destinations.

Dutch-oven-baked beans were a chuck-wagon staple.

Fresh and dried peppers native to Mexico, dried beans, corn and rice, cornmeal and flour, salt, honey and/or unrefined sugar, coffee, cured ham, bacon and dried meats, which traveled well over the long haul, were all staples of a well-stocked chuck wagon.  Live chickens were usually brought along by the cook ("cooky"), so, eggs as protein were common too.  Wild onions and an occasional herb or two got picked along the way.  Next to a hot pot of coffee, Dutch-oven-baked beans were a daily chuck-wagon staple.  The cattle needed to be watched 24/7, so cowboys worked in shifts, meaning, they were constantly coming and going from wherever base camp was.  Those riding into camp were exhausted.  Before getting some shuteye and heading out again, they filled their plate full of hearty and hot bacony beans and wiped it clean with a piece of corn or soda bread.  One of cooky's responsibilities was to keep the beans going low and slow over the campfire's coals, adding more beans, bacon and water to the pot almost nonstop.  

Lots of smoky bacon = the main flavoring for these beans.

IMG_31161  pound, thick-sliced applewood- or  hicory-smoked bacon (8-9 slices)

1  40-ounce can butter beans (limas), well-drained

1  28-ounce can pork & beans, your favorite brand, undrained

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

1 1/2  cups ketchup, or, barbecue sauce for BBQ-style beans

6  tablespoons yellow mustard

4  tablespoons pure maple syrup

3/4-1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119~Step 1. Slice bacon into 2" pieces, placing them in bottom of 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven as you work.  Place this heavy, enameled cast iron piece of equipment over medium-high heat.  Fry bacon, using a large slotted spoon or spatula to keep it moving in the pan until crisp and golden, 12-14 minutes.  Transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3157~Step 2. Add the onions to the bacon drippings remaining in the skillet.  Fry onions until soft and translucent, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the butter beans, baked beans, ketchup, maple syrup, mustard and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Partially cover the pot and continue to cook until mixture is thickened and reduced by about 1/4, 45-60 minutes.  

Stir in bacon pieces & serve ASAP or reheated the next day:  

IMG_3158Campfire-Style One-Skillet Bacony Barbecue Beans:  Recipe yields 2 quarts baked beans/14, 1/2-cup side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; paper towels

IMG_9993Cook's Note: When my mom announced she was making pork and beans for dinner, she didn't mean she was opening a can of pork and beans -- in a way, kinda sorta she was, but, there was a bit more to it. It meant she had asked Vince, the butcher at The Valley Meat Market, to slice 8, 1/2"-3/4"-thick bone-in pork loin chops, plus a pound of smoky bacon, so she could make her very special recipe for ~ Pork Chop & Baked Bean Casserole -- Pork & Beans ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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