hobo beans

I rarely do library visits by myself anymore. The children love to go, and, for the most part, don’t bother me as I stomp all over the building, violently yanking books from the stacks. Plus, I need the children to help haul the books to the car.

Most mornings before lunch, we all pile onto the sofa and the kids bring me fearsome heaps that demonstrate their ability to dream big. I read only library books, and each one only once. Even so, we’re pushing it to make our way through all the books before we must return them.

A couple library trips ago, I ran into a friend of mine who happens to be an expert on children’s literature. She pointed me in the direction of the biographical picture books and now I’m hooked. Along with the Berenstain Bears and Frog and Toad, we read stories about Harriet Tubman, Michael Jordan, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, and Franklin Roosevelt. We read about Grandma Moses (she lived right here in this valley!) and look up her artwork on the internet. We read about Gregor Mendel and his peas and then, because the children are so fascinated, I use brown and blue crayons to map out the genetics of their eye colors. We read about Dr. Seuss which inspires the kids to search our shelves for all his books and go on a Seuss-reading jag. And we read about Casey Jones, I spy the recipe for Hobo Beans at the end of the book, make them, and suddenly we have a new family favorite.

The children went absolutely crazy-nuts for these beans. They ate fast and heaped their plate with seconds. The boys, especially, couldn’t stop raving. “What do you mean these are hobo beans?” my older son said. “They should be called kingly beans!”

I put the leftovers in the freezer and my children have rebuked me ever since.

“Why did you freeze them!”
“We want to eat them now!”
“When will you get them out?”
“Can we have them for supper tonight?”

Moral: library books are nourishing in more ways than one.

Hobo Beans
Adapted from a recipe found in Casey Jones, retold by Larry Dane Brimner.

This recipe is similar to a thick chili. I served it in bowls (no condiments), with cornbread and a green salad. It would also be good ladled over rice or egg noodles, or served with biscuits or mountains of buttered toast.

I’m not sure of the exact quantity of the beans I used. I had a huge pot simmering on the stove, and I just scooped from there. Perhaps two quarts of cooked beans? Three? Also, the beans had been flavored with garlic, onion, tomatoes, and chile cobanero.

Do not omit the pineapple.

3-6 slices bacon, chopped and cooked till crispy
2 pounds ground beef
1-2 large onions, chopped
1 pound dried red beans, cooked
1 cup crushed pineapple, briefly drained
1 cup brown sugar, gently packed
1 pint tomato sauce (I used roasted)
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
splash of vinegar

Fry the bacon in a large skillet. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the ground beef and onions to the pan (don’t remove the bacon grease!) and fry until browned and thoroughly cooked.

Combine the cooked beef, the bacon, and all remaining ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on high-heat for a couple hours until bubbling. Let simmer a couple more hours so the flavors meld. Serve hot.


  • Deirdre

    I come back to this recipe all the time – it's one of my husband's favorites. I thought I should let you know that he requested it for his birthday. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ellen

    Ok, so let's say that you wanted to cheat and use canned beans. How many cans? I made this last fall and am trying to decide whether to keep the pin or not. 🙂 I just don't cook dried beans much.

  • Suburban Correspondent

    Yes, Grandma Moses lived in or near Staunton, raising 10 children on an apple farm. She didn't become famous until much later, after she had moved back to upper New York State, where she started painting just to pass the time, I guess. Her first painting (or so legend has it) sold out of a drugstore window in Hoosick Falls, NY. I LOVE Grandma Moses.

  • Zoë

    We have the "read a library book only once" rule, too. I ought to get the kids their own little library bags. Right now I only fill one bag because I also have to carry Benny back to the car. (He downright refuses to walk alone, even if it's at a familiar place. Little bugger.)

    This recipe looks similar to what my family calls "goulash". It was about the only meal my dad cooked when my mom would be away (which, admittedly, was rare). We loved it. Still do. I'll have to try this version.

  • Camille

    So, you know I am planning to make this, right? My family knows about you because I cook your food….they like you. 🙂 A question: are the red beans the small ones, or did you use kidney beans? Thanks! Camille

    • Jennifer Jo

      I'm honored to be apart of your family via meals—tell everyone I said hi!

      Yes, I used small red beans, not kidney. But you can use whatever beans your family likes: pinto, black, kidney, etc. If you like the bean by itself, you'll like it in the dish.

    • Camille

      I will tell them…they will smile! I'm smiling as I type. Thank you for the answer…I will aim for tomorrow…gotta soak those beans tonight. Happy weekend to you! Camille

    • Camille

      It took an extra day for me to get sorted out, but, they are in the slow cooker waiting for dinner. I said *hi* from you to the family last night…they liked that. I'll let you know what we think. 🙂

    • Camille

      A hit…all around. No leftovers. I plan to blog about it at some point…I'll link back to you. Maybe next week…maybe the week after. 🙂 Thank you for always sharing the yummy things with us here. We appreciate it. Hugs, Camille

  • Crystal

    Looks delicious! I agree that library day and the blessing of 'new' books to read is a favorite day at our house. I'm also always grateful when a new author or genre is recommended to help me branch out from the usual. I think I'll check out the biographies the next time we go.

  • Margo

    looks soooo good. We went to the library yesterday and I told the kids they could get all the books they wanted to carry home – tee he. Their little backs were so sore (they said) by the time we got home.

    I should tell my kids I will read a library book only once to them. Some of their books are so tiresome.

  • Tricia @ The Domestic Fringe

    These sound good. My family enjoys these kinds of meals, so I'll put it on my must try list. Thanks for sharing!

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