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Beans Beans The Magical Fruit! The More You Eat the More you....How to make traditional Maine Baked Beans!
Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit. We have all heard and probably sung that song a million times in our lifetime. But, like many silly songs or sayings there is often a grain of truth in them somewhere. This is the case with beans, they are a true super food that are filled with fiber, antioxidants, protein, and iron. All the good things you need for your body in one source.
Fiber has been shown to help regulate sugar levels, weight management, tummy problems (like constipation), colon cancer and varicose veins. However, as Americans we don't consume nearly enough in our daily diet and a lot of the food that we consume have had the fiber removed through processing. In fact, the RDA for fiber for men aged 9 to 50 is 31 to 38 grams a day. For women the RDA is slightly lower at 26 grams from age 9 to 18 then drops to 25 grams from 18 to 50. Let's face it most of us don't even come close to that amount in a week much less a day.
Another important component in beans are their antioxidants. Antioxidants remove all the "crap" from our bodies caused from environmental factors and just living. When you consume antioxidants they can help restore the body to a much healthier state. It has been found that people who eat the recommended amount of 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day they have lower rates of stroke, obesity, cancer and are just generally healthier overall. This is credited to the antioxidant power contained in fruits and veggies.
Protein is something that we all need as it is the main building block for our muscles. Protein is also is a great help if you want to loose those few unwanted pounds. Protein, particularly when combined with fiber, is very filling and will keep you feeling full longer as the body metabolizes it a lot slower.
Iron is required to help the body make new red blood cells. Red blood cells are the long haul truckers of the circulatory system. Red blood cells are carry oxygen from the lungs to different parts of our body. After these blood cells drop their load of oxygen they then make the return trip back to the lungs carrying CO2 to be expelled from the body. This process requires 20 micrograms of iron a day to make new red blood cells to replace old cells. If you don't have enough iron in your system you can become anemic which is a lack of red blood cells and can become a very serious condition if not treated.
One of my favorite ways to eat beans is to make Traditional Maine Baked Beans. Not only are they yummy but they are the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day but a great way to get the benefits of this magical fruit. Traditional Maine baked beans are also really easy to prepare and cook.
For Mainers baked beans are serious business and for many families their recipes and bean pots are handed down from generation to generation. Bean pots, like in the picture above, are made from generally made from clay and can withstand being put in an oven to bake for a long period of time. So the first step in making Maine Beans is to procure a bean pot, if you don't have one a ceramic or clay baking dish with a lid will work. In a pinch, you can use a crock pot set on low. Once you have your cooking vessel in hand the next step is beans.
You can use any type of dried beans like kidney, soldier beans, or Jacob Cattle beans. In my family we use the Jacob Cattle Beans. These beans are maroon and white and when cooked they are almost sweet in flavor. Jacob Cattle Beans are an heirloom bean that they were brought to Maine from Prince Edward Island by the Passamaquoddy Indians. There is also an old legend that says the Passamaquoddy Indians gave these beans to the first white child, Joseph Clark, born in Lubec, Maine as a gift.
Once, you have made your bean choice you first soak them overnight in a pot of water to rehydrate them. This particular recipe calls for two pounds of beans. The next morning drain your beans and place them in your bean pot. In a small bowl you, will need to mix 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 to 2/3 cup of molasses (1/2 a cup will produce lighter colored beans, 2/3 cup of molasses will produce darker beans), 2 teaspoons powdered mustard, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix all these together and dump on your beans stir until the beans are covered. Place a 1/2 pound chunk of salt pork on top of the beans. If you can't find or don't like salt pork you can use a ham bone, ham hocks, part of a ham steak, bacon or you can omit the meat if you choose. Some cooks also add half of an onion, sliced, to their beans. Once all of this goodness is inside the bean pot pour boiling water over the top of the beans until covered. Pop the lid on the bean pot and slide into a 250 degree oven and bake for about 8 hours or until the beans are tender. You do need to periodically check your beans for moisture. If it looks like the water is no longer just covering the beans add more boiling water. During the last hour of cooking simply remove the lid and let brown. Serve with warm brown bread, or bread of your choice. I often also make some kielbasa to go along with my beans. While you are enjoying this traditional dish you can also feel pleased in knowing that your family is getting a healthy dose of fiber, antioxidants, protein and iron in one simple meal. Beans, Beans are the magical fruit.