Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Southern Green Beans

Southern Green Beans
Dorcas Annette Walker

One main introduction to southern cooking was beans when we pastored in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each meal had at least one dish of cooked beans. The kind of beans one grew in the garden and ate was of major importance. At every church dinner you could count on at least one table being full of nothing but all kinds of beans. Up until that time I had never encountered so many beans in my life. Thus began my education in southern-style green beans. I soon was canning and filling shelves of white half-runner string beans just like the rest of the church folk. Since then I’ve ventured out and even grown foot-long string green beans.

The common bean has been cultivated dating back to the ancient Egyptians. There are over 4,000 classifications of beans on record in the U.S. alone. There are three main types of beans: snap, string, and green (string-less) beans that grow as pole or bush beans such as: Kentucky Blue, Kentucky Wonder, and Blue Lake. You can choose between a rainbow of colors: green, purple, yellow (wax), red, black, red-striped, white, and navy beans. Other varieties include: lima or butter, kidney, pinto, and soybeans. With some beans the tender pods are eaten, others you let dry out and store for soups (Shelly or fall beans), while bean sprouts are used in stir-fries. Oriental, Mexican, Southwestern, Middle East, and Southern folk all use different kinds of beans in their cuisine. One recipe called Fifteen Bean Soup is made up of fifteen different types of beans. Field beans are mostly bush and used for stock feed.

Green beans are available year round as canned, frozen, or fresh and are cooked by boiling, steaming, or baking. Some restaurants serve battered and fried green beans. Beans continue to be one of the principal sources of protein for vegetarians and are a healthy food alternative for the poor. Green beans are low in calories, have an excellent source of vitamin K, C, and A, contain fiber, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3, and niacin.

My Southern Green Beans are easy to prepare and make a colorful addition to any meal. Some southern cooks use shortening or fatback instead of bacon grease. I have also added small chunks of ham or bacon in my green beans. Preparation time for my Southern Green Beans is around twenty minutes and this recipe serves four.

Southern Green Beans

1 quart canned green beans
1 tb bacon grease
1 tsp chopped onion

Rinse green beans and dump into a medium-sized saucepan. Almost cover the beans with water. Sprinkle on the onion and add the bacon grease. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and let boil for at least ten more minutes until most of the water is gone. Serve hot!

Weekly tip: My recent Lemon Squares recipe had the (three eggs) omitted from the listing of the first six ingredients that you creamed!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: