By Kevin Williams
Many people think the Shakers died out a generation or so ago, but four Shakers still live quietly in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. I visited the Shaker settlement a couple of weeks ago and came away with a new understand of their religion and beliefs, which I'll share a bit with you in the coming days.
The Shakers were at the forefront of American innovation at their height. Shaker furniture is known world-wide for its exquisite craftsmanship and durability. Shakers also invented the modern day flat broom, circular saw and clothespin. In addition their songs and cooking made their way into American pop culture.
This is the six-story dwelling house (a bell-tower sits atop) which serves as home for the remaining Shakers.
I've actually had an old Shaker cookbook (simply called The Shaker Cook Book by Carolyn Piercy) sitting on a shelf in my office. It dates from sometime in the mid-1950s. Vegetarian recipes were quite common among early Shakers, who were by definition a pacifist church. This is a recipe for Shaker-style baked beans...I'll share more Shaker recipes in the days ahead and compare and contrast it to Amish cooking.
- 4 cups navy beans
- 2 1 /2 cups hot water
- 1 onion
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 /2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 /2 cup tomato catsup
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Drain and cook in fresh water until tender.
- Peel onion and place in bottom of well-buttered bean pot.
- Drain beans and save liquid.
- Pour beans into bean pot.
- Add molasses,butter, salt, dry mustard, and catsup to bean liquid and pour over beans.
- Cover pot and cook in very slow oven for 3 hours.
- Add more liquid whenever necessary.
- Remove cover for last half hour and brown well. Serves 10-12.