by Helen Colella
Picnic time is at its peak and there’s a picnic for everyone and every occasion.
Family celebrations, company thank you days, church fellowship get-togethers, romantic encounters, or gatherings with friends, these outdoor gatherings are a favorite. Whether it’s at a park, beside a lake, in the mountains surrounded by breath taking landscape, in your own backyard, it’s an outdoor gathering everyone enjoys. Most people believe that if you can think of a reason to come together to enjoy the company of others and have fun, a picnic is the way to go, especially during the summer months.
Food at a picnic can include deli sandwiches, finger food, fruit, salads, and cold meats combined with a beverage of choice, from juice to wine to soft drinks to champagne. Over the years picnics have grown from picnic baskets and a blanket to being combined with cookouts, barbecue and grilling…it’s all up to you and your imagination.
Since July is National Baked Bean Month and enjoying outdoor living is the way to go, why not add a baked bean dish to your menu.
Homemade versions and their be recipes are as different as the chefs who prepare them and the locations where they come from, the kind of beans used and the method of cooking. There are many traditional and modern methods to follow.
Baked beans hail from New England, although many people associate the dish with traditional Southern barbeques or cowboy chuck wagons out on the open range.
The beans can be navy, pinto, kidney, white, lima, yellow eye and black beans, or a combination of any of them…it’s your recipe.
Despite the name, baked beans are usually stewed, in a sauce. For example, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, tomato sauce is most commonly used. In the United States, Boston baked beans use a sauce made from pork and molasses, the popularity of which has led to the city being nicknamed “Beantown”. Maine and Quebec-style beans often use maple syrup. Baked beans can used as a convenience food when heated, or eaten as a snack. In the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, they have begun appearing in conjunction with other foods, such as filler inside sausages, as a side dish with bacon, eggs, and toast as part of a full breakfast. Add meat, like bacon, pork or not, or go vegetarian…it’s what your taste buds crave.
If you don’t have a cast-iron pot, just not inclined to make your own, or short on time, commercial canned baked beans made by Bush, B&M, Heinz, and Allen’s are a tasty alternative; plus you can add a little of this and a little of that to make them your own…semi homemade. Canned beans were supplied to the US Army during the Civil War in the 1860s and are considered a staple food for students…why not? They’re delicious!
Baked beans are traditional cuisines of many regions from around the world and have specific names: Poland: Breton Beans; Spain: Fabada; France: Cassoulet; Balkans: Prebranac; Norway: Tomatbønner; Iceland: Bakaðar baunir.
Beans have been referred to as the ‘musical fruit’ because they produce an increase of flatulence. They are regarded as healthy. They are low in fat and contain no saturated fat, trans fats, or cholesterol. They are high in protein, fiber, iron, folic acid, and potassium. In addition to health benefits related to heart disease and cancer, studies also suggest eating beans may help manage diabetes and cut the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
So mix and match your beans, bake ‘em and serve ‘em up as often as possible, not just in July, the National Baked Bean Month…all year round.