Sunday, June 28, 2009


This one is memorable in that it appeared on the table at every special occasion, from the time I met my first Mother-in-Law, through the kidnapping of the recipe by my own Mother, who called it her own when she passed it around under the hairdryer, and on to all of my children, who still can these and cook them for their own special days. These are snap beans, pole beans, green beans---whatever your designation. They are cooked in brine and canned, then drained and cooked in a big pot in which some ham or bacon, as well as a good bit of chopped onion, have been slowly fried into softness.

I've never tried them straight out of the jar, but we gave several jars as take-home gifts to friends from Pennsylvania, and she put some out in a pretty bowl on the Christmas cocktail-party table, then raved over everyone's wanting the recipe.

We much prefer pole beans, such as Kentucky Wonder, but bush beans seem to be more prevalent in markets. And you can cut this in half EASILY, just don't reduce the cooking time by much.

For two gallons of snapped, washed beans:

Put the beans in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add 1 pint sugar and 1 pint white or cider vinegar---any kind but balsamic. Run water into the pot until it covers beans an inch or two, then stir. Cook 45 minutes and can into hot jars. Screw on Mason lids and turn upside down til cool.

Italics above for the shorthand dictation of the recipe by MIL: Two gallon Beans. Take a pint jar and fill it with sugar, pour it in. Same jar, pint of vinegar. Tablespoon of pickling salt. Water inch or two over the beans. Cook 45 minutes and can. Verbatim. That's how ladies shared recipes in those days---a good step up from Mrs. Beeton's "First take your rabbit. . ." but quick and easily understood by other cooks.

These have a slight sweetness, very little, and a nice vinegary tang. But they're meant to be a savory dish, so for cooking:

It will take two quarts to make a nice bowl of these, if you're going to cook them down in the Southern manner. In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pan:

Gently fry six or so slices of bacon, cut into inch-bits or not, or a hunk of ham, cut into little cubes. While bacon/ham is still soft, but has rendered some of the fat, add one or two large chopped onions and fry a bit more. Dump beans in a colander and rinse, then add to pot with about a pint of water. Add salt, some pepper if you like, and a mere thought of garlic, then cover and cook at least 45 minutes.

They will cook down "considerable" and make approximately as much as two cans of Del Monte do before cooking. These beans are not to be taken lightly, not the frivolous opening of the above DM for a quick green addition to a meal. Pickled beans are serious, and should be served with the respect due a carefully-considered, long-taking task. They’ve had a while betwixt vine and pot, to meditate and reflect on their gravity and importance, and have soaked up sunshine, sprinkler-flow, the vinegar and the sugar and all that bacony, oniony depth that makes them worth the time and effort. Besides, they're DELICIOUS!!

For really special, scrub a couple of dozen baby red potatoes, peel just one little strip around, and drop on top the last twenty minutes of cooking. Scatter a bit of salt across the potatoes when you put them in the pot, and cover so they steam to a creamy softness. We’ve had them on our Thanksgiving table every year, and they’re fine with turkey and all, but on an ordinary night, with a hot, crisp pan of cornbread, a fried chickenleg or two, and a black skillet of that preciously-guarded cut field corn from the freezer, baked with butter and salt and presented crusty and golden---THAT'S to be thankful for.


Indy Cookie said...

I love snap beans! My family also dried beans. I remember the white sheets lying in the sun covered in half runners or strung on string and hanging across the smoke house . We called them Shucky Beans and the house smelled glorious as they simmered on the stove full of salt pork and onion!

racheld said...

OHHH, you've caused a tongue-tingle with that imagery! I've never had Shucky Beans, since we did so much canning and so much freezing, but it's always sounded like a deep, rich simmering of wonderful flavors and textures.

I've also wondered about the "dried corn" which is mentioned in a lot of books of the pioneer days. It sounds like a richer version of the regular cut-from-the-cob fresh, cooked gently and served soon.

Also, don't I remember Shucky Beans' being called Leather Breeches? I always thought that to be an apt little name for the shape and dry appearance.

Tonja said...

I love snap beans...My aunt would cook big pots of them in the morning, and by night they would all be gone. She would can them too. Oh, I could use some of those yummy 'country' meals now!

Patricia Neely-Dorsey said...

My name is Patricia Neely-Dorsey. I am from Tupelo,MS and the author of Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems.
I have been enjoying reading your blog and was wondering if you might possibly feature my book on your blog to introduce my "little book of southern poems " to your readers and help me spread the word.

Patricia Neely Dorsey's Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems is "a true celebration of the south and things southern." The author states , "There are so many negative connotations associated with Mississippi and the south in general. In my book, using childhood memories, personal thoughts and dreams, I attempt to give a positive glimpse into the southern way of life. In my book I try to show that there is much is more to Mississippi and the south than all of the negatives usually portrayed .I invite readers to Meet Mississippi (and the south) Through Poetry ,Prose and The Written Word."

If you want a glimpse of Southern life,
Come close and walk with me;
I'll tell you all the simple things,
That you are sure to see.
You'll see mockingbirds and bumblebees,
Magnolia blossoms and dogwood trees,
Caterpillars on the step,
Wooden porches cleanly swept;
Watermelons on the vine,
Strong majestic Georgia pines;
Rocking chairs and front yard swings,
Junebugs flying on a string;
Turnip greens and hot cornbread,
Coleslaw and barbecue;
Fried okra, fried corn, fried green tomatoes,
Fried pies and pickles too.
There's ice cold tea that's syrupy sweet,
And cool, green grass beneath your feet;
Catfish nipping in the lake,
And fresh young boys on the make.
You'll see all these things
And much, much more,
In a way of life that I adore.
Copyright 2008 Patricia Neely-Dorsey
from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life In Poems


racheld said...

Glad to, Patricia---see todays Post.