Dear Sun Spots: Had a call from out of town asking about bean-hole beans. He did not know where to get a large, iron kettle cover to use. – No Name, No Town.

Answer:
In addition to responses from readers, Sun Spots spoke with Elizabeth Hanlon, manager of the Black Stove Shop, 1929 Lisbon St., Lewiston, ME 04240; (207) 784-6144 or (800) 244-6144, who says they stock a four-quart, cast iron Dutch oven, which has a cover. It also can be ordered in an oval size. The shops (www.blackstoveshops.com) have five locations in Maine, including this one.

In the meantime, Sun Spots hopes you and your family enjoy the following bean-hole recipe located online at www.portlandme.about.com:

Maine Bean-Hole Beans. Note: The art of cooking in a hole in the ground was used for hundreds of years by Maine’s Penobscot Indians. Today, bean-hole beans are still a popular Maine tradition. The ideal pot for full flavor is a cast iron kettle with a lid (often referred to as a Dutch oven). If you don’t have one and can’t borrow one, any sturdy pot with a lid will do.

Ingredients and Method:

1. Dig a hole in the ground large enough to hold the pot with 2- or 3-inches of clearance on all sides, and at least 6-inches of clearance on top.

2. Build a fire in the hole with dry firewood and let it burn down to large embers and ash while preparing the beans.

3. Parboil two quarts of dry beans until the skins wrinkle. Drain off the fluid.

4. Slice a large onion and place half of the slices in the bean bean pot.

5. Pour in half of the beans.

6. Add another layer of sliced onion and several large slabs of salt pork or bacon.

7. Add the remaining beans.

8. Measure one cup of dark molasses and pour over the top of the beans.

9. Add enough water to cover the beans.

10. When the fire has burned down in the bean hole, shovel out enough of the embers and ashes to make room for the pot, and place the pot in the hole.

11. Place a wet dish towel over the top of the uncovered pot and push the lid securely down over the cloth.

12. Place embers and ashes around the sides and on top of the pot, then cover these with the dirt you removed when you dug the hole.

Cook for approximately 6 hours for absolutely delicious beans. Serves approximately four. Note: Many foods have an enhanced flavor when cooked in a hole in the ground in this manner. If you dig the hole in an appropriate place, you can continue to use it for outdoor cooking.

Maine Maple Beans recipe from the same Web site: Ingredients: 2 lbs of dry beans, 1 medium onion, ½ cup of packed brown sugar, ½ pound salt pork, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon ginger, 2 cups dark maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. Method: Wash the dry beans, place them in a pot and cover them with water. Let them soak overnight. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cook until the skins slough off the beans when you blow on them (approximately one hour). Drain the water off and put it aside. Place the onion in the bottom of a bean pot and pour the beans into the pot. Slice the salt pork almost to the rind in ½-inch intervals and place it rind side up on top of the beans. In a bowl, mix the maple syrup, dry mustard, ginger, salt and pepper. Add one cup of the water the beans were cooked in, stir together and pour the mixture over the beans. Add more of the bean water to the pot until it reaches 1 inch above the beans. Bake in the oven for six to eight hours at 250 degrees.

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