Who Needs an Oven? Just Bury Your Beans - NYTimes.com
Here’s how it works: Dig a hole big enough for the pot you’re planning to cook in, then build a fire of hardwood logs in it, dropping a dozen or so rocks into the fire once it’s well started. When the wood has burned down to embers, very carefully take out the rocks using barbecue gloves, put your pot of (presoaked and parboiled) beans into the embers, drop the rocks around and on top of the pot, cover everything with dirt and walk away. Come back in eight hours or so, and your beans should be ready.
Of course, as with other folkway foods like barbecue or chile, there’s plenty of controversy about all this. Because it’s not really done right unless it’s done exactly the way your mama (or your grandma or your great-grandma) did it. And, while you’re at it, there’s lots of discussion to be engaged in about the particular beans you should use. The soldier bean is said to be most authentic, but we’ve found that most heirloom beans, like Jacob’s Cattle or yellow eye, work very well, as do more common types like pea beans or even kidney beans.
Whatever bean you use, once you’ve cooked up a big pot of them, you can try the Maine tradition of next-day sandwiches of cold beans with raw onions on brown bread (or pumpernickel, if that’s easier). It’s one of those “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” combinations.
Chances are, though, most of us are not going to go out and dig a bean hole, even if we do have a backyard. So it’s fortunate that bean-hole beans can also be made perfectly well in the electric bean hole, a k a the oven. They won’t have bean-hole bona fides and they’ll lack that little trace of smoke, but they will still be very delicious.