Labor Day means the end of summer, the beginning of school, a new college and professional football season and the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s annual picnic at Fort Ward Park.
For the first time this summer, the weather cooperated and it did not rain until the food was eaten, the water balloons tossed and the baked beans judged.
“There are a lot of candidates here today but you won’t hear one single speech,” said Susan Kellom, the ADC chair. “This is about having fun, recruiting volunteers and judging baked beans.”
The baked beans contest came about because, as Dick Hosbson, long-time Democratic Party activist said, "I kept getting to the picnic and finding no baked beans left. So, we started the contest and I appointed myself to be the judge. That has ensured that I get to taste all of the baked beans.”
This year, there were five contestants. “My husband should have won last year but by the time Dick got around to judging, there were none of his [beans] left. This year he made extra and we are holding them in reserve until the contest,” Kellom said.
Hobson went down the row of entries, tasting each one. “I, of course, cleansed my pallet between each taste to get the full flavor of each entry,” he said.
It took two tastes of each to determine a winner but, in the end, Hobson named the baked beans prepared by Laura Mandala to be the best. “They just had the best variety of ingredients and they were a bit different,” he said.
THE RECIPE Mandala used has been in her family since she can remember. “It’s my aunt’s recipe and this is the first time I’ve ever tried it,” she said. “I think the ingredient that makes this recipe stand out is the ground beef. When you combine it with bacon and onions and all of the other things that go into the dish, it’s a very special taste.”
Like most of the other cooks, Mandala is better known for her role as chairperson of the Alexandria Commission on Women. “The beans are fun but the Commission is my real passion,” Mandala said. “I hope everyone remembers the Walk to Fight Breast Cancer and all of the other important things that the commission does.”
Jacqueline Skinner also entered the baked bean contest. “I have never shared the family recipe,” she said.
Last year’s winner, Elsie Mosqueda, did share her recipe, as did Ben Kellom. And even though there will be no hamburgers cooked by Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney, S. Randolph Sengel, to go with the beans, try one of these recipes and see how it tastes.
Elsie's Baked Beans
1 large can pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can northern (white) beans or 1 can butter beans
1/2 lb bacon
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion - chopped
1/2 cup catsup
2 tablespoons vinegar
Brown sugar to taste
Brown bacon and drain. Brown ground meat with onion, adding onions towards the end of browning.
Combine bacon and ground meat mixture.
Mix ketchup, vinegar, and brown sugar separately. Add liquid mixture to meat mixture.,
Add beans and bake one hour at 350 degrees.
Ben’s Baked Beans
10 Thick slices bacon (cut in half)
2 Medium Vidalia onions (rough cut)
4 One lb. cans of beans
4 Tablespoons Worstershire sauce
2 teaspoons sweet onion flavored prepared mustard
1 cup diced sweet red pepper
6 Large Mushrooms, halved
Cook bacon in frying pan until crisp. Reserve drippings. Drain and crumble bacon.
Cook onions in reserved drippings. Add peppers and mushrooms and continue cooking until tender.
Combine all ingredients in a large casserole dish, and stir well. Refrigerate overnight. Bake for 1-1/2 hours in a 325degree oven. Garnish with additional cooked bacon slices if desired.
Baked Bean Medley
2 large cans pork and beans
2 medium cans lima beans
2 medium cans kidney beans
In 2 tbsp of olive oil lightly sauté 2 large bell peppers chopped and 3 large Vidalia onions chopped
1 lb cooked maple flavored bacon, cook until almost crisp, drain and dice
Combine all ingredients in a large casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees 1.5 hours- cook additional time if there is too much liquid left. Don't bake beans to be too dry or too wet.