Bean-Hole Baked Beans

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Bean-Hole Baked Beans

For 75 years, the Smith/Smart family has gathered annually in Maine to enjoy each other’s company and feast on a potluck meal. There’s always one staple: real bean-hole baked beans. John Madden, whose mother was a Smart, says that the family sometimes has three pots of beans going at once. (“They eat a lot of beans up there, morning, noon, and night sometimes,” says John’s wife, Evelyn.) John suggests using a three-legged, cast-iron kettle with a flared sheet metal cover to bake the beans in. From John Madden

Yield: Serves 6 to 8.


  • For a 1-1/2- or 2-gallon pot, increase the following basic recipe by three times.1 pound dried beans (yellow eye or pea beans work well)
  • 1/4 pound salt pork, cut up
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup molasses


Pick over the beans, remove any bad ones and take out any pebbles, then wash beans. Soak beans overnight in plenty of water to cover. Meanwhile, dig a two-foot-wide bean hole to have it ready for the next day (be sure the hole is at least two feet deep). Collect eight to ten fist-size rocks, along with an ample supply of softwood, like pine or hemlock.

The next morning, add water to the beans to cover, and parboil them until the skins pop when you blow on them (about 20 minutes). In the meantime, fill the bean hole about 3/4 full of wood and light a fire. Place the rocks on top, and add more wood.

Drain the beans. In a large iron pot that has a flared cover, put in a layer of salt pork, half the beans, the rest of the salt pork, and the rest of the beans. Mix the mustard, salt, and pepper into the molasses, and pour into the pot. Fill the pot with hot water, just to cover the beans. Place a brown paper shopping bag between the pot and its top to make a seal.

When the fire has burned down to red-hot coals and the rocks are red hot (after 1 to 1-1/2 hours), use a long-handled spade to push the rocks to one side of the hole. Carefully set the pot into the hole so it's level. Nestle the rocks around the pot, and use one large hot rock to weight the top.

Cover the pot and hole with four to six inches of soil (checking first to make sure the lid is on tight so no dirt gets into the beans), and let it cook for 8 hours. Shovel off the dirt and remove the pot. If the beans seem dry, make a 1/2-inch indentation in the beans, add a little boiling water, and let it set in before eating.

  • eileen

    If you increase the size of the recipe, do you increase the cooking time?

  • I came accross this article while looking around. The Smith/Smart family reunion is part of my heritage as my grandfather was Clarence Smart. I have eaten many many bean hole beans. My grandfather made them for years every Friday night, and they were taken out of the ground Saturday, and him and my beloved Grandmother sold them to numerous people that had camps at Big Boyd Lake. Often my grandmother would make either yeast bread or rolls or bakewell cream biscuits and sell them with the beans for a typical Satuday night supper. I have also attended the reunion numerous times with them, and Dennis Smart would be making the beans. How I miss them both. To this day, I love bean hole beans, my dad now makes them with their recipe, I have assisted him numerous times. I and also I make baked beans that I bake in the oven.

  • Anonymous

    This was fun. I would definitely do it again. Saves heating up the kitchen in the summertime.


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