When I was in the produce area at Dierberg’s today, they had some especially good looking green beans. I couldn’t resist. I bagged several big handfuls and headed for the potato section. There I picked up a sack of small potatoes. Yes, I was having a flash back to those meals of yesteryear, when my mother cooked green bean and new potatoes—Southern style—which meant an hour or more on the stove top with a ham hock. Ooohh!!! They were good.
During the summers, when I was a youngster and our garden was in full swing, we’d eat green beans every day. A large pot of beans would last awhile and be a bit limp by the third day, but wreaking with flavor. What we couldn’t eat from the garden, we’d can or freeze, though the frozen ones were easier to put up, they weren’t near as good as the ones we canned.
I spent many an hour alongside my grandmother “stringing beans,” that is, removing the ends and the long, tough string that ran between them. She’d tell old stories or hum hymns to help pass the time. I always fussed, because it seemed like such a mountainous task. But, I didn’t mind those hours near as much as I let on.
Long, Slow Cooking
The prepared beans spent the afternoon simmering on a back burner and became the centerpiece of the evening meal. Even though I still love these Southern-style beans, I don’t make them for the family any more. My kids don’t like this outmoded cooking method, that nearly turns the vegetables to mush. Many of today’s recipes call for green beans to be in and out of the pot in ten minutes, leaving them with a bit of a crunch. I’m okay with my beans being al dente—sometimes—but the old fashion way brings me more comfort—and memories.
Southern Style Green Beans and New Potatoes
- 5 slices bacon, rough chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 lbs. fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and snapped
- 2 lbs. small red, new potatoes
- 4 cups chicken broth, or all, or part, water
- 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes, if desired
Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heat until meat renders its fat and begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook for additional 5 minutes. (I sometimes add a clove of garlic, chopped, along with the onion.)
Add beans and potatoes and just enough of the broth, and/or water, to barely cover. Add seasonings. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.
- Don’t use Russet or baking potatoes; they don’t stand up well in the long cooking. Red potatoes or fingerlings work best.
- You can sub canned green beans, (about 4-5 cans) for fresh beans in the recipe.
- I sometimes add a ham hock to the pot for further seasoning.
- Peel potatoes, if you like, or just cut them in half to make sure they soak up the flavor. Or scrape just a band around the middle.