KEEPING SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY ALIVE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Southern-Style Green Beans

Difficulty Level is 2 (on a Scale of 1 to 5)

INGREDIENTS:

  • One mess* of pole beans, green beans or snap beans
  • Water, enough to cover beans
  • Salt pork or salted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

The first stage of southern-style green bean prep is called "snapping the beans." Enlist everyone in your house for this task. It's something even a two-year-old can do and it's a good way to bring the family together.

Wash the beans and put the whole mess into a large bowl. Have an empty bowl ready for the discarded end pieces, and a large pot (the size depends on the size of your "mess") for the snapped beans that are ready to cook.

Remove the ends of the beans by bending until they break off. The bean should make a healthy snapping sound. If it has a string attached, just pull down the side of the pod to remove it. Toss the ends and strings into the empty "discard" bowl. Then break the bean into one or two inch pieces, depending on your personal preference, and throw these pieces into your cooking pot. Remember that smaller pieces cook faster than larger ones.

When all the beans are snapped, fill the cooking pot with enough water to cover the beans. Add salt pork or butter. You'll need to add additional salt if you are using butter. Salt pork is salty enough on its own.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours. Keep an eye on the water level. Add more to keep all the beans covered, otherwise they'll dry out and won't cook properly. I taste-test the beans after an hour of cooking and if they don't suit me, I keep cooking them. I was raised on southern-style green beans and still prefer to eat them without the "green" taste. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a little black pepper. Serve hot.

*A mess is a generic measure for however many beans you need for dinner. Large, flat pole beans are the preferred southern green bean.

A MESS OF GREEN BEANS

My earliest recollection of green beans is not eating them but watching my grandmother and aunts sitting together and chatting while snapping the beans into pieces. Their conversation was of little interest to me but I did delight in hearing the occasional popping sound when someone would snap the bean in just the right spot. A mess of beans could be ready for the cooking pot in no time flat. Sometimes I couldn't tell which moved faster, their lips or their fingers!