Beans On A Rope

Junior Doughty (Edited 6-24-06)

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  • 1 lb dry large Lima beans (or any other kind of dry beans)
  • 1 chunk of smoked meat
  • 1 hambone or chunk of ham
  • 1 medium or large onion, chopped
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

I cooked the pot of beans in this recipe at my fish camp. The camp doesn't have air conditioning, so in the summer I do most of my cooking on the outside propane burner, on one of the camp charcoal grills, or over a campfire with my portable tripod. I didn't have my tripod, so I thought I'd show you folks how to cook by hanging a pot from a rope.

First, I used a nylon rope. If you use nylon, use a rope, not a cord. Nylon stretches. A cast iron pot full of food is heavy.

Closeup of the slider
  Note the slider (red), the loop in the yellow rope, and the upper hook attached to the chain.
I began by making a slider from a piece of plastic. A slider is the 3-holed dohickey used to adjust the tension on tent guy wires. It's the red thingy in the photo on the right. Then I ran a loop of the nylon rope through the end of a 24" section of chain and tied the end of the loop to the slider. Thus by sliding the slider up and down I could raise and lower the chain. (I used a 24" section of chain because I had it on hand. 12" would have worked just fine.)

The chain has 2 hooks: one at the bottom to hold a pot bail and one at the top to adjust the length of the chain. At the bottom edge of the photo you can see the upper hook. With a heavy pot hanging from the end of the chain and a fire at your feet, it is difficult to adjust the slider. I adjust it just once so that the bottom of the pot is slightly above the firewood, i.e., in the boiling position. Then when the pot needs raising to a simmer position, I hook a lower chain link to the upper hook, raising the pot.

With your chain hanging from a basketball-diameter loop at the end of your rope, throw the chain end over a limb. My limb was about 10 feet above the ground. Pull the rope until the hook on the end of the chain is about knee-high from the ground, then tie off the other end of the rope to a tree, etc. Place your firewood beneath the dangling end of the chain and there build your fire. Got that? Throw the rope over the limb and then build your fire.

I can't emphasize enough the fact that most people build cooking fires much too large. You want a fire smaller in diameter than your pot. Hat-sized is fine.

Your fire blazing a little, not a lot, hook the pot to the end of the chain and adjust the slider, if needed. Then add your ingredients and start cooking. If you have to adjust the slider again, do it. That probably means that your rope is too small and has stretched.

Easy Kitchen Method:

  • Put every ingredient in a CROCK-POT® and cook on "High" for 8 to 10 hours.

Campfire Method:

  • Add all ingredients to pot and bring to a rolling boil
  • Boil for 5 or 10 minutes
  • Raise pot and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally
  • Add water if needed

Adding the meat I simmered my pot of beans for 2 1/2 hours and added maybe 1 cup of water.

Here you see me at the beginnging of the cooking process adding a smoked ham hock and a sliced, 1/2" thick cross section of a ham. The smoked ham hock looks burned, but it isn't. I smoked it myself. Click here to see how I did it.

I watch the hams at the local grocery store, and just before they go out of date the store puts them on sale for dirt cheap. I throw one in my buggy and get the butcher or deli to slice it in 1/2" thick slices for no charge. When I get home I put 2 slices to a zip sandwich bag and throw them in the freezer. That gives me a couple of months of cheap ham for frying and for adding to beans. I haven't paid full retail for a ham in years.

Starting to cook
  Starting to boil. Notice the small fire. (That's a spoon you see hanging from the slider.)

Hint: When ready to stir the beans, grasp the pot bail at the point where the hook contacts the bail. Then, holding both the hook and the bail, pull the pot toward yourself. You can stir the beans while standing 3 feet from the fire.

Here's some more bean recipes:

Red Beans 'n' Rice:

  • Use red kidney beans instead of limas.
  • Instead of smoked meat and ham, substitute 1/2 lb of thinly sliced smoked pork or pork/venison sausage.
  • When you stir the beans, mash them against the side of the pot with the bottom of the spoon. You want about 1/3 of the beans to liquify.
  • Serve over rice with Tabasco sauce to taste.
  • Get ready for your guests to say, "This is the best damn red beans 'n' rice I ever ate."

Blackeyed Peas:

  • Use dry blackeyed peas.
  • Use smoked meat and 1/2 lb of thinly sliced smoked pork or pork/venison sausage or a big ole hambone or a couple of thick slices of ham.
  • Add 1 10 oz can diced Rotel® tomatoes w/green chilies or add 1 or 2 large diced fresh tomatoes and 1 or 2 large diced jalapenos.
  • Get ready for your (redneck) guests to say, "I ain't never ate no better blackeyed peas."

If you're tent camping, put the dry and liquid spices the recipe calls for into a 20 oz plastic soft drink bottle at home. When you're ready to cook in the woods, add 1 of the 8 cups of water to the bottle and give it a shake, then dump it in the pot.

It's hard to beat a pot of beans simmering over a campfire. Try ‘em on a rope and watch the other campers come over for a look.

Copyright 2001 by Junior Doughty

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