Some of the best meals are those eaten around a campfire with the ones we love. As idyllic as that sounds, there may be a time when we must eat this way to survive. Those who understand the importance of food independence for survival know that food independence starts with beans. Yes, beans, and specifically, bean hole beans.
Bean hole beans are given that name because of the way they are cooked. The bean hole cooking method literally refers to cooking beans in a hole in the ground, hence the name “bean hole beans.” This is an ideal survival method for those caught in disaster situations where there is no electricity for extended periods of time or for those who aim to live off the grid. In fact, our American ancestors saw bean hole cooking as a way to provide their families with the nutrition they needed.
Read on to learn more about how our ancestors used bean hole cooking and discover recipes so you can give bean hole cooking a try.
The history of bean hole cooking in America
It is believed that these Native Americans passed on their knowledge of bean hole cooking to the early American settlers. And bean hole cooking eventually became a regular activity for the Pilgrims. Historians suggest that the tradition of bean hole cooking on Saturdays began so they would have enough food prepared and would not have to cook on the Sabbath.The earliest bean hole cooking in the United States is attributed to the Native Americans, specifically the Penobscot Nation located in New England. However, the Penobscot Indians did not have Dutch ovens. Instead, they used clay pots buried deep in the earth for bean hole cooking. According to Chowhound, “Archaeologists have found evidence that some tribes in Maine and New York buried earthenware pots of food covered in hot ash, but it wasn’t necessarily a widespread cooking technique.”
The process of bean hole cooking also became popular at logging camps during the mid-1800s. Loggers would stay in camps with limited resources for weeks at a time and had to live on the land with the few resources they brought. Since bean hole cooking required only a few ingredients, but provided large portions of food, it was popular with the loggers.
Bean hole cooking also became a regular practice for Civil War cooks. Tom Curren, an expert on bean hole beans, tells Chowhound, “Cooks would go ahead a day’s march, dig a hole, create a fire, put rocks in the hole, heat them up, put a kettle in with the ingredients, bury it, and when the regiment marches down after a long day, they don’t have to wait for the cooks, they just dig it up and can eat it instantly.”
However, as America grew and new technologies were introduced, bean hole cooking went out of fashion. That is until the Second Industrial Revolution during the 1920s. At this time, bean hole cooking became more of a tradition than a necessity. New England towns would host bean hole beans suppers that would incite city workers to visit their hometowns.
The tradition continues today in the New England area. As Fisherman’s Voice explains, “Year after year, towns, villages, churches, fraternal and community organizations throughout Maine host bean hole bean suppers. It’s amazing how a simple meal of bean hole beans, homemade biscuits, coffee, tea, cider, Coleslaw and a slice of homemade pie, can draw people from far and wide.”
Bean hole cooking as a survival method
That’s not all. The main reason why beans are a staple for food preparedness is because of their nutritional value. When you are in a survival situation, what you eat matters. You need sustenance and food that will keep you going. Beans are packed with protein – enough to work as a replacement for meat. Nutritionists recommend 50 grams of protein per day per person; most beans provide between 29-36% of the daily value needed (per cooked cup).Bean hole cooking is more than just a part of our history or a fun tradition – bean hole cooking is an excellent survival method. Beans are a survival preparedness staple for many reasons. Dried beans are easy to store and have a long shelf life. There are thousands of varieties, so you can vary the types of meals your family eats. And they are cheap and filling.
At My Patriot Supply, we carry a variety of bean products, including a Beans Trio and Rice Kit, which has 100 servings and an up to 30-year shelf life. The kit trio contains pinto, black, and red beans -- some of the healthiest beans you can eat. For example, black beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber, and they also reduce a rise in blood sugar. Similarly, pinto beans reduce a rise in blood sugar and reduce blood cholesterol.
How to make a bean hole
Before you start cooking bean hole beans, you need to make your bean hole. Start by digging a hole slightly larger than the pot or at least 2 feet deep. Build a fire in the hole with wood. Once you get the fire going, add stones to the pit to hold the heat. Burn the fire until the wood has turned to hot coals. Once the bean hole coals and rocks are hot, move the rocks to the side or out of the hole. At this point, you can place your prepared pot into the bean hole.
Bean hole cooking recipes
A quick search online pulls up many different recipes for bean hole beans. You will notice a few differences, but all the recipes call for the same essential ingredients (which explains its popularity in logging camps). Chowhound explains, “The main ingredients needed—dry beans, salt pork, onions, molasses, herbs, and spices—don’t require refrigeration and can easily be packed up for long expeditions in the wilderness.”
Here is a recipe for Bean Hole Beans from All Recipes.
10 cups dried beans of your choice
1 pound salt pork
2 onions, thinly sliced
2½ cups molasses
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons dry mustard
½ cup butter (not required)
- Soak beans overnight in water.
- The next day, drain and rinse the beans.
- In a 6-quart Dutch oven or another large, heavy pot, place cut slices of the salt pork in the bottom
- Peel and cut onions. Place them on top of the salt pork.
- Add the beans and all the remaining ingredients to the pot.
- Stir to combine.
- Add water to cover the beans by about 1 inch.
- Place the pot in the bean hole cooker.
- Cover the top of the pot with heavy duty foil.
- Fill the bean hole with dirt – enough to cover the pot.
- Let it cook for 8 hours.
- After 8 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.
How to plant beans
In addition to buying dried beans, you can also grow your own. My Patriot Supply offers Organic California Light Red Kidney Beans seed packets. You can plant these seeds after the last frost of the season in direct sunlight. Sow the seeds in rows 20-36" apart. It is best to plant the seeds when the soil temperature during the day averages at least 60 degrees F, or else germination can suffer. By resowing the seeds, you will get a continuous supply throughout the summer season.
Check out this great video on how to plant, harvest, and can Kidney Beans, by OldAlabamaGardener:
Beans are hearty, healthy, and delicious. Add some to your survival stock, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply