Maple baked beans

As I don my rugged field coat, I know I am prepared for the arduous journey before me. I am heading upriver to check my trap line. I have packed provisions for the trip and my trusty canine is by my side, eager to start. I am prepared for the rough trail and I am determined to live off the land, alerted to game by my dog’s low growls. As I embark, the harsh wind whips at my face, the landscape is enveloped in a strange, discomfiting silence. But, bravely, I push on…

My adored, if somewhat nosy, wife, L, is reading that paragraph over my shoulder and insists that I “come clean.” So, for the sake of matrimonial harmony, let me start again:

I put on my new field coat (half-price at Eddie Bauer at last fall’s clearance sale) and wonder if I should wear it after all as it might get dirty if I brush up against a tree or something even ickier. I decide to risk it – after all, I am only headed to the cottage to check the mouse traps. I fill a stainless steel travel mug with excellent coffee and put the dog in the back of the rugged station wagon (OK, L,  you don’t to be such a nitpicker:  it’s not rugged, it’s German. But it does have all-wheel drive) where she will whine continuously for 15 minutes, convinced she is headed to the vet. She will also bark the whole time we’re stopped for our pub lunch. Anyway, as we head down the highway the wind is a bit chilly so I am forced to close the sunroof.  The adult contemporary easy listening station won’t come in clearly so I shut off the radio and the car is enveloped in a strange, discomfiting silence. But, bravely, I push on…

For all you mouse lovers out there, I am happy to report that my traps were empty. L is also insisting that I tell you the entire trip there and back, including pub lunch, took less than four hours and was completely uneventful (Boring. my version was going to be full of eventfulness).

I can only imagine that, back in the old days,  when real trappers, half-starved from days on the road, their dog-sleds heavily laden with thousands of mouse pelts destined to decorate European dandies, would return home from such a journey desperate for a hearty meal.

These beans baked with maple syrup and rich with salt pork would hit the spot nicely. I made this batch over an open fire in the middle of a late-winter snowstorm while fighting off a hungry black bear. Don’t let L tell you anything different.

Maple baked beans

(adapted from Gourmet, March 2006)

2 pounds dried navy beans

1/2 pound piece salt pork (rind removed and discarded)

9 cups water

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 chopped garlic cloves

1 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons dry English mustard

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt (or, to taste)

Pick over beans and soak overnight in water equal to at least three times their volume (or, follow the quick method outlined here).

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut salt pork into several smaller pieces. In a large (5 quart) Dutch oven or heavy pot, combine all ingredients, except cider vinegar and salt. Bake, covered, until beans are just tender (3-4 hours)

Remove lid and reduce heat to 325 F. Bake beans for another 90 minutes or so until much of the liquid has evaporated and the beans have a saucy consistency.

Stir in cider vinegar and salt. Enjoy!

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