The dutch oven has a long history. As a European import to the colonies that would become the United States, this humble cooking pot became one of the most valuable pieces that a person could own. Its design allowed for both in-home cooking and transferred well to outdoor life. Mountain men, fur trappers, cowboys, and other pioneers thought of the dutch oven as one of their most valuable possessions.
Since in-home amenities have evolved over time, dutch ovens have retained a certain mystique that parallels those pioneering individuals of our past. Some of the most popular recipes give a respect to that spirit, even if the ingredients differ some from what is authentic.
Cowboy beans are a great example of such a dish. Cowboys were certainly fans of beans baked in a dutch oven. Many varieties of beans contain what is referred to as slow carbs, meaning that the caloric energy that they contain is processed over a longer span of time than foods like sugars and grains. They’re also a great source of water-soluble fiber, which can make its way into the blood stream and clear congestive substances out of the arteries. For cowboys, means would have provided a great way to maintain energy, stay healthy with a high-protein or high-fat diet, and (maybe most importantly) stay regular.
Most recipes you see today for what are called “Cowboy beans” are more about character than they are authenticity. Many of these recipes include Texas-style barbecue flavors that incorporate tomatoes and sweet bases. Ingredients like ketchup and barbecue sauce would’ve been foreign to a cattle man who was more at home on the range than in the big city, but these recipes aren’t about authenticity—they’re about a enjoying the many flavors of the dish.
Bring on the beans!
For this recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1 2-lb. can of pork and beans
- 4 slices of bacon, sliced into squares (maple-cured or hickory smoked preferred)
- 1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup of ketchup
- 1/8 cup of cider vinegar
- In a Cast Iron 4-Quart Round Dutch Oven , place beans, onion, brown sugar, mustard, ketchup and vinegar. Mix thoroughly.
- Place bacon on top of the bean mixture, being careful to cover the top as much as possible.
- Cover and cook at 350 degrees at least 1 hour.
This recipe serves 8 to 10 people.
Have you tried this recipe yet? This is the type of dish that just wants to go with other southwestern barbecue fair, like cornbread and beef ribs. But it’s equally at home alongside franks and potato salad. Don’t be afraid to make your own adjustments—this is a recipe that just begs to get a special ingredient that becomes a family secret. Tell us in the comments how you enjoyed your cowboy beans and what you served them with!
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