DESCRIPTION.—Some variety of the bean family has been cultivated and used for culinary purposes from time immemorial. It is frequently mentioned in Scripture; King David considered it worthy of a place in his dietary, and the prophet Ezekiel was instructed to mix it with the various grains and seeds of which he made his bread.
Among some ancient nations the bean was regarded as a type of death, and the priests of Jupiter were forbidden to eat it, touch it, or even pronounce its name. The believer in the doctrine of transmigration of souls carefully avoided this article of food, in the fear of submitting beloved friends to the ordeal of mastication.
At the present day there is scarcely a country in hot or temperate climates where the bean is not cultivated and universally appreciated, both as a green vegetable and when mature and dried.
The time required to digest boiled beans is two and one half hours, and upwards.
In their immature state, beans are prepared and cooked like other green vegetables. Dry beans may be either boiled, stewed, or baked, but whatever the method employed, it must be very slow and prolonged. Beans to be baked should first be parboiled until tender. We mention this as a precautionary measure lest some amateur cook, misled by the term “bake,” should repeat the experiment of the little English maid whom we employed as cook while living in London, a few years ago. In ordering our dinner, we had quite overlooked the fact that baked beans are almost wholly an American dish, and failed to give any suggestions as to the best manner of preparing it. Left to her own resources, the poor girl did the best she knew how, but her face was full of perplexity as she placed the beans upon the table at dinner, with, “Well, ma’am, here are the beans, but I don’t see how you are going to eat them.” Nor did we, for she had actually baked the dry beans, and they lay there in the dish, as brown as roasted coffee berries, and as hard as bullets.
Beans to be boiled or stewed do not need parboiling, although many cooks prefer to parboil them, to lessen the strong flavor which to some persons is quite objectionable.
From one to eight hours are required to cook beans, varying with the age and variety of the seed, whether it has been soaked, and the rapidity of the cooking process.
BAKED BEANS.—Pick over a quart of best white beans and soak in cold water over night. Put them to cook in fresh water, and simmer gently till they are tender, but not broken. Let them be quite juicy when taken from the kettle. Season with salt and a teaspoonful of molasses. Put them in a deep crock in a slow oven. Let them bake two or three hours, or until they assume a reddish brown tinge, adding boiling water occasionally to prevent their becoming dry. Turn, into a shallow dish, and brown nicely before sending to the table.