Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Wyoming I - Yeah, well I'm sick of beans.

Here it is!  I've reached the literal end of the State-by-State series with the last state in alphabetical order, Wyoming.  True, there are two Wyoming posts coming.  Plus, as I said in the final Wisconsin post, I am doing ten more of these to tie up things on a region-by-region basis.  But when I started on November 21, 2010, with my first Alabama post (which I later split into two posts), I had only hoped I would get this far.  Now here I am, folks.  Here I am.

Official Name: State of Wyoming
State Nickname: The Equality State, The Cowboy State
Admission to the US: July 10, 1890 (#44)
Capital: Cheyenne (largest)
Other Important Cities: Casper (2nd largest), Laramie (3rd largest), Gillette (4th largest); Jackson (largest town, would be 10th largest city - this is the town in the middle of Jackson Hole) 
Region: West, Mountain West, Big Sky Country; Mountain (US Census)
RAFT NationsBisonPinyon Nut
Bordered by: Montana (north), South Dakota (northeast), Nebraska (southeast), Colorado (south), Utah (southwest), Idaho (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: bison (mammal), cutthroat trout (fish), western wheat grass (grass) 
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Native American (Shoshone) and frontier foods, especially beans, beef and bison; game animals such as deer, elk and moose; sheep; bread

Like the rest of the Rockies and Big Sky Country, Wyoming's is a hearty mixture of frontier and Native American - in this case Shoshone - foods.  Native Americans would have subsisted on the ever-present beans, bears and bison.  And as our friends at the Food Time Line point out, the earliest non-Native settlers were prospectors, bringing their food traditions from Back East.  They quote Hilde Gabriel Lee's Taste of the States [1992] in discussing the earliest settler foods of the Equality State:

While the settlers were building their homesteads and planting crops, they subsisted on braised bear meat, venison steak, hominy cooked with dried beef, and sometimes rice with honey and cinnamon. Pioneer women soon became experts at improvising, For coffee they roasted anything that would turn brown over a fire. They used a Dutch oven for everything from boiling water to baking cakes [Lee 1992:235]
They likely used that same reliable Dutch oven for cooking beans, which were more of a staple in Wyoming than I had realized.  It was important for the sheep herders to get these cheap and widely available staples.  And as anyone who's seen Brokeback Mountain will know its most important social message of all, more so than its message of forbidden love between two cow hands in mid-century Wyoming: cowboys hate beans.

Jack and Ennis weren't the only cowboys to (have to) indulge in can after can of beans (all those beans).  Many a cowpoke had to do the same.  So it's no surprise that for my first Wyoming post I would go there.  But there are so many recipes for beans from Wyoming that it's difficult to choose one.  For certain, most of the recipes I've seen incorporate many kinds of beans together, so I was not going to escape that.  In the end, I used a bean recipe from Dennis Steele and Molly Myer at the Bit-O-Wyo Ranch in Cheyenne.  Theirs uses quite a variety of beans.  And I even got to break out my Dutch oven for this one, too.

The Recipe: Bit-O-Wyo Beans (Wyoming Beans)

For these Bit-O-Wyo Ranch beans you will need the following:

First, assemble all of the following types of beans (none of which was more than $1.50):
* garbanzo beans
* black beans
* baby lima beans (the only one I couldn't find in a can; I had to get a bag of the dried variety)
* kidney beans
* generic old baked beans

To add to that, get the following:
* bacon (yes I was out of bacon.  Sue me.  Was about $4.50ish at Harris Teeter)
* ground beef (I only needed half a pound, so I got as much - $7 per pound of Angus beef, so it only cost me about $3.50, again at Harris Teeter)
* Dijon mustard (had it)
* brown sugar (same)
* onion (less than a dollar)
* ketchup (I had this, too)
* apple cider vinegar (how can I be out of bacon but not this?)

If any beans need soaking - to wit: these baby lima beans - soak them overnight.

Next, brown your bacon and beef in a cast iron skillet.

Add to that your onions, and continue to cook until the bacon is rendered.

Next we're going to transfer everything into an oven-safe pot, like this Dutch oven, which seemed like the most logical choice for Wyoming Beans anyway.

Dump all your beans into your Dutch oven.

Add the mustard, ketchup, vinegar and brown sugar.

And then add the onion and browned meat.  I really should have rendered this bacon a bit more, I think, but it was fine.

Bake in the oven at 350°F for about 40 to 45 minutes.

And you end up with this hearty pot of beans!

Like I said, this is hearty.  It's a big mess of beans, I'll give it that - beans I would not normally throw together.  While I probably wouldn't eat these various beans together again, I would recommend this as a filling way to use up a whole mess o' beans.  And it is comfort food: nice, hot comfort food for a chilly day.  Unless you're herding sheep or something.  Speaking of which: let's have the love theme from Brokeback Mountain play us out as we eat our beans.


Lee, Hilde Gabriel.  Taste of the States: A Food History of America.  Howell Press: Charlottesville, VA, 1992.

"maestrojed" (Youtube user).  "Balls: The Movie - Rocky Mountain Oysters".  Posted July 9, 2010.

Steele, Dennis, and Molly Myer.  "Bit-O-Wyo Beans".  Bit-O-Wyo Ranch, date unknown.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Wyoming" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Wyoming".