Sunday, May 31, 2009

Backed Beans

As you know, I'm fascinated by food as a reflection of the meaning of our lives. A year or two ago, I came into possession of my grandmother's cookbook. She's ninety now, and doesn't cook much anymore. The cookbook is a compilation of newspaper clippings, relief society dittos, and very few handwritten originals. The handwritten originals are sorted into those without comment, those labeled "good", and those labeled "very good". There are a lot of repeats in the recipes. For example, there's one called "Poulsbo Bread" that shows up more than a dozen times. Also, a recipe for baked beans shows up several times.

What I think is the oldest of the baked bean recipes is on a yellowed, stained, torn 3x5 card. It is titled "Backed Beans" and it goes as follows:
"1 larg can Pork&Beans take the little pice of Fat out
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tea-spoon dry Mustard
1/2 cup catsup. Fry 1/2 lb Bacon till Crisp,
then chopped 1 good size onion cook in Bacon Fat-
this will take 10 mins,
drain greas off Mixx Onions Bacon and
other ingredients. Mix Well Back 1/2 hour
at 350
the Onion and Bacon can be fixed hours or ^a day before."

Fair enough. This recipe also shows up in the family recipe book of my grandma's sister. That leads me to think that perhaps my great-grandma was the misspeller of "Backed Beans".

So then I was poking around in a DUP source and found this nice little ditty from Mary Alice Widdison, born in Utah in 1854:
“Mary Alice Widdison's Baked Beans: 4 c. dried white beans ½ c. chopped onions— 1/2 to ¾ c. brown sugar or molasses— 2 tsp. Salt— 1 c. boiling water— 1/4 lb. pork diced—1/2 tsp. dry mustard— 1/2 c. catsup. Cover the beans with water and soak for 12 hours, drain and cover again with water and simmer slowly for a long time. Place a few beans in a spoon, blow them and if the skins burst they are sufficiently cooked, drain and add the remaining ingredients— blend well. Place in a greased dish or bean pot. Bake in a slow oven from 6 to 8 hours. If they become dry, add a little water or stock—uncover last hour of baking.”

With the exception of using canned instead of dry beans, they're basically the same recipe. I thought that was pretty darn cool. Now if I can just figure out what the cosmic meaning of it is...