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Southern Style Green Beans

Kitchen Confessions

After I got married and moved across the country my Aunt Hen confessed, “When you were still at home I got so sick of green beans.” Of course there was no denying that it was my fault. Green beans were my favorite vegetable and I would eat them every night if she would cook them for me. More often than she probably should have, she did.

Cooking in my own kitchen I continued to eat a lot of green beans. When I first began to cook for myself I was happy enough to eat them straight from a can and warmed slightly. In time I learned how much I like fresh green beans in salads or cooked crisp tender with a simple dressing. I also discovered that frozen green beans are delicious steamed with a dash of sesame oil or soy sauce.
Eventually I discovered lots of different ways to enjoy green beans. What I couldn’t seem to reproduce was the wonderful flavor of my Aunt Hen’s Southern Style Green Beans, flavored with down-home ingredients and cooked slow until they were permeated with the essence of those seasonings.

Simply a Matter of Time

Really what I think it comes down to is a matter of time. The ingredients are simple enough: green beans (canned or fresh), bacon grease and/or ham scraps, a little onion and ground pepper and maybe a spoonful of sugar. Then you cook them and cook them and.... longer than I used to have the patience for, about 2 hours for canned green beans and up to four hours for fresh. So put them on early, before you start preparing anything else and then let them slowly simmer on the back of the stove while you work.

While these green beans cook for a long, long time, they are simple and undemanding to prepare. Still, you should be warned: they are nothing special to look at. They can be dressed up in a pretty bowl for special occasions but whether they are or not they are still well appreciated, in an understated way, at my family's table. As plates are filled everyone will take a serving and leftovers will be hard to come by.

At my house these Southern Style Green Beans are a constant and can be found at every holiday meal: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and Derby Day. While they may not be the star of the table their presence is both expected and enjoyed. They remain one of my very favorite comfort foods. While they do take their time getting ready, the wonderful old-fashioned southern style flavor is worth it ....

and, believe me, they go with everything!

Southern Green Beans
Adapted from “We Make You Kindly Welcome: Recipes From the Trustee’s House Daily Fare” at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

4 15-ounce cans cut green beans
½ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon bacon grease
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1 Tablespoon ham scraps (if you have them)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)

Mix together in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low. Slow-simmer uncovered, adding liquid if necessary, for two hours or until dinner is served.

This recipe can also be used with 2½ to 3 pounds of fresh green beans cleaned and cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Cover beans with water. Add other ingredients, and salt to taste, then cook slowly until very tender, approximately 4 hours.

Serve and enjoy!


pam said...

Oh man, nothing like a good old bowl of southern style green beans!

KathyB. said...

And here all these years I have been making them Southern style without knowing it! After Brussels sprouts, my favorite vegetable dish is green beans cooked like this. They make a complete meal for me when my husband is out of town...just a humongous pot of these will do me for a night or two..maybe some cheese and bread on the side.

Love your blog.Noble Pig pointed you out to me.

grace said...

ya gots ta have the bacon grease and ham hocks, or at least one or the other. people who've never had southern green beans have no idea what they're missing when they eat canned or frozen stuff.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Green beans are always my go too side... next to corn and potatoes of course.

Candy said...

Yum! I live about 20 minutes away from Shaker Town and you don't get much more authentic than this. When I don't have time for true Southern green beans, I use saute thinly sliced shallots in butter and olive oil, until they are almost done and then thrown in a can of drained beans, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes or so.

George Gaston said...

Lisa, these green beans remind me of my childhood and going to my great Aunt Lilian's for dinner - which was really lunch, but her big meal of the day. She made the absolutely best green beans using a very similar method.

Oh what memories... many thanks.

Dan Haas said...

(My first comment on your blog.)Wonderful! Nourishing to the eye and the heart. Will have to try this one. Since they "go with everything," I think I'll make them with your crab cake recipe!

Lisa said...

Hi Dan. Sounds good to me! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.

And thanks to the rest of you as well. Southern Style Green Beans have a special place in my heart and your comments are a wonderful affirmation of this favorite side dish.

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I stopped by your blog, but I'm having fun reviewing the comfort food

Southern style green beans have replaced green bean casserole at our family's Thanksgiving dinners. To "dress them up" I top them with homemade french fried onions. Mmmm!

Anonymous said...

It is best if all the water is drained off of the canned beans. I use a crock pot to slow cook my green beans, and use some beef boulliom
N for seaoning as well as the ham hocks or bacon grease.