08 January 2011

8 January - Battle of New Orleans; Southern Baked Beans

Weather: the weather today foretells the weather of August
Cloudy and warm
Today in 1815 - neither side knowing that the War of 1812 had ended the previous December - the British troops of Major General Sir Edward Pakenham met the American troops under Major General Andrew Jackson some few miles from the city of New Orleans.  One side was intent on gaining control of the Mississippi River and the lands sold to the United States by France in 1803 (and greater bargaining power in the peace talks), the other side aimed to stop it.  That they did stop it was a surprise to everyone, for while Pakenham had between 8,000 and 11,000 men in the field, veterans of the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon, Jackson had less than half that number - a mixture of regular army, militia, Indians, pirates, and volunteers.

In 1814, we took a little trip,
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon an' we took a little beans,
an' we fought the bloody British in a town called New Orleans...

(sing it, Johnny!)
[You can hear the original and expanded version (no expletives deleted) by Jimmy Driftwood here]

At some point, commemoration of the battle became a day to honor Andrew Jackson, and eventually a day solely celebrated by members of the Democrat Party.  In 1896, the New York Times wrote an article on the commemoration of the day, beginning: "All good Democrats remembered that yesterday was Andrew Jackson's Day in their calendar, and that in the world's record of important events it was the anniversary of the battle of New-Orleans." (download the article here) At the time the article was written, there were still four veterans of the War of 1812 living.

A reenactment of the battle and a living history encampment take place annually at Chalmette Battlefield (Jean Lafitte NHP and Preserve) on the weekend closest to today, where you can meet troops from both sides, and get more of a lesson in the 'why' and 'how' than you would from the history books.

Well, we can do better than Andy's boys and turn their bacon and beans into something fit for a cold day in... January.


Either soak 1 pound of dried white beans in 6 cups of water overnight; or put beans and water in a kettle, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour.

Mince 2 garlic cloves.  Slice 1 onion.  Slice 3/4 pound of salt pork or cut about 6 slices of bacon in half.

To the kettle add the garlic, onion, 1 small dried hot red pepper, 1 bay leaf, and the salt pork or bacon.  Simmer, covered, until beans are tender, about 1 hour.  Drain, reserving liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the beans in a shallow 2-quart baking dish.  Arrange the pork slices or bacon on top.

Measure the bean liquid, adding water if necessary to equal 2 cups.  To the liquid, add 1/4 cup of ketchup, 3 tablespoons of molasses, 1-1/2 teaspoons of Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon of powdered mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon EACH of ground ginger and salt.  Pour liquid over beans (carefully. You don't want them sloshing out of the dish).  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar.

Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour.