|My Grandmother's Serving Bowl|
IF MY GRANDMOTHER WERE ALIVE TODAY I would ask her to cook me some of her well loved green beans. As you can see, these beans are cooked to smithereens. It has taken me years to get them right and now I am sharing her secrets with you.
These beans are intensely flavored--practically a bean butter. Think apple to apple sauce to apple butter. That is the concept.
After inquiring about these beans repeatedly over the years, it was a recent conversation with my Mother, when she said that her Mother would put on the green beans right after breakfast, to have for supper that evening, that I had my Aha! moment. I had been told to put the beans in a big pot, add in a piece of fatback, cover with water and cook. That was it. The detail that wasn't revealed was the fact that the beans were literally cooked for hours. Hours.
|My Grandmother's Table Cloth|
I cooked these beans as part of a summer vegetable plate, as was tradition in my family. To this day, there is nothing I love eating more than a plate of well prepared, flavorful vegetables. I have been eating these vegetables for two meals each day for three days in a row. Heavenly.
As the beans, squash, corn, field peas, okra, and tomatoes were spent, greens would be planted. In fall, the turnip greens, collards, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins would begin appearing on plates instead of the summer crops.
My Grandmother's beans cannot be made with the blue lake type green bean typically found year round in grocery stores. A good stout bean is needed. These are half runners which are an heirloom bean. You definitely don't want to steam these for five minutes and serve. Even if you don't want to caramelize them as I have done, they still need a good long cooking time to achieve tenderness.
You need to snap these beans and string them. Some people even call them snap beans. And when I say string beans, you can see what I mean. If you ever sit down before a serving of beans that have not been properly stringed--well, let's just say it is not pleasant. And the snapping helps to get hold of the strings for pulling to remove.
The vendor called this "side meat". My Grandmother always called it streak o' lean. It is like slab bacon that has been cured but not smoked. It is salt cured, so don't add any salt to your beans. I have known cooks to use lard instead, or even a big glug of vegetable shortening. If I wanted to keep the concentrated bean flavor more on the healthy and vegetarian side, I would use coconut oil. Of course you would need to add salt then.
Southern Legacy Green Beans
3 - 4 pounds heirloom green beans, snapped and strings removed
2 - 3 oz. streak o' lean, salt pork, fatback, lard, or other fat of choice
Salt if not using salt-cured meat
Put prepared green beans in a large, heavy pot. Add streak o' lean. Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and partially cover. Cook for several hours, adding more water as needed. Do not add more salt--the salt added in the beginning is still there, it is only the water that cooks away.