For as long as we have been married, a pillar on our regional cookbook shelf has been The New England Yankee Cookbook, written by Imogene Wolcott in 1939. Featuring not only regional recipes and lore, it also includes antique photos of local heroes: a clam digger in his rubber boots, a white-haired granny rolling out the dough for cookies, a stalwart family at its dinner table. Even better than the book itself is the fact that we found it in a secondhand store somewhere in New Hampshire and its previous owner had used it well. It is stained, blotched, and strewn with evidence of someone none-too-neat in the kitchen, who apparently tried nearly every recipe; and many of those recipes are annotated with the cook's comments.
Some twenty years ago when we saw an enthusiastic Very Good! written in pencil next to the New Hampshire Baked Yellow Eye Pork and Beans recipe, we knew we should try it. We did, and with only minor modifications, it became our standard recipe for serious, stout-flavored Yankee pork and beans. Add a good measure of pureed chiles and it becomes a bowl of red with one heckuva punch--not exactly vegetarian (the salt pork is essential) but not beefy either.
Although the recipe requires little effort, it does demand lots of time for soaking the beans and cooking them slowly.
2 1/2 cups dried yellow-eye beans
2 cups barbecue sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
8 dried whole ancho chile peppers
3/4 pound salt pork, scored deeply with a knife on the nonrind side
1) Wash the beans and soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with fresh water. Simmer 60 to 90 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Drain. In a large bowl, mix the beans with 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, the sugar, molasses, mustard, pepper, ginger, and salt.
2) Place the chiles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes, until soft; then seed and stem them. In a food processor or blender, puree the chiles with the remaining 1 cup of barbecue sauce.
3) Preheat the oven to 300°F. Add the chile puree to the beans, mix, and turn into a bean pot. Place the salt pork on top of the beans with the rind side up. Cover the bean pot and bake for 5 hours. Uncover for the last hour so the beans get crusty.
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Excerpted from CHILI NATION by Jane Stern Copyright© 1998 by Jane and Michael Stern. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.