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Bury the beans; cook the beans; eat the beans – Bean Hole Days in Pequot Lakes

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For decades now, the people of Pequot Lakes have gathered for a hallowed annual tradition unlike any other.

The Burying of the Beans.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., five gigantic cast iron kettles filled with 400 pounds of beans – made behind locked doors with "Paul Bunyan's secret recipe" – will be buried at the city's Trailside Park, according to local officials. They'll cook through the night over a fire, and eventually be ready to eat.

That part comes after Wednesday's Raising of the Beans – the five cast iron kettles are unburied and pulled out, then served for free (along with a dinner roll and beverage) to the 2,500 or so expected attendees.

It's part of a Minnesota tradition – the annual Bean Hole Days.

Which is what, exactly?

“And we come together in this park, and we just have a blast eating beans,” Bernice Rohde, the event co-chair in 2012, told WCCO. But the station says it started as a way to thank local farmers and welcome tourists.

Bean Hole Days was first held in 1938, but fell off when many of the boys went to fight in wars, the Brainerd Dispatch reports. The local chamber of commerce restarted the effort in the 1970s, and it's since grown from one big pot to five.

Now a two-day event, Bean Hole Days also features a craft fair and concessions Wednesday, plus the coronation of a king and queen bean, according to the festival schedule. New this year is a prince and princess jellybean.

MPR News put together a photo gallery from the 2014 iteration. Included in the secret Paul Bunyan recipe, it says, is ground bacon, molasses and dried onions.

And here's some Brainerd Dispatch video from 2014.

Why bury the beans?

Well it's actually a "classic method of outdoor cooking," the New York Times wrote in 2012.

It was originally adopted by New Englanders from the local American Indian tribes, which relied on the protein-rich beans as a main source of nutrition in their diet, the University of Maine says. It quickly became a staple for local loggers as well.

A 19-page story provided by the Minnesota Historical Society details meal habits in the 1830s in the state, including the use of bean holes.

"Beans were put into a Dutch oven and buried in the bean hole, which was alongside of the big fire," it says. "They cooked mysteriously at night while men slept, and were ready to be served in the morning with boiled salt pork."

So does it make a difference in taste? The New York Times writer says, unequivocally, yes, writing:

"The long, slow cooking with its gradually declining heat had perfectly melded the earthy flavor of the beans with the fatty richness of the salt pork, the distinctive rounded sweetness of molasses and maple syrup and the gentle tang of mustard. These beans might just be worth all that effort."

And maybe worth a drive to Pequot Lakes, as well.

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