Growing up in the south one of the first things I learned to cook was green beans. They were a staple during the summertime. Cooking the beans wasn’t so bad, but first, you had to go to the garden pick them, and then snap them. It could take a while. It just all depended on how big a “mess” you needed for a meal.
If you were picking them to can or put in the freezer, you picked everything that was on the bush that was eating size. Most of the time our mom canned green beans by the quart rather than put them in the freezer. The canned green beans were quicker to prepare when you were ready to fix a meal. All you had to do was just open up the mason jar, and cook them down until almost all the liquid was gone.
Snapping Green Beans
To snap green beans, you pinch off each end and then break the long green bean into bout 1″ pieces. Making the pieces too long would get you a hard look from your mom or grandmother.
Most of the time the snapping was done on the back porch or somewhere outside, maybe under a shade tree if you had a lot to snap. My grandmother would pile a bunch in her apron and snap the beans. She would just toss the end pieces into a bucket and hold the snapped pieces in her apron and empty it up from time to time.
My mother didn’t wear an apron and she would snap beans into a big dish pan. Goodness, how do we remember these details!
My child will have no memories of me snapping beans I’m afraid. My husband and I have never had a garden. It’s kind of hard to believe since we both grew up with gardens being commonplace or really more of a necessity.
Anyway, growing up we would either cook fresh green beans by boiling them until they were tender, add salt and pepper and “cook them down” until the liquid was about gone. If we had bacon or ham we might add a piece. Or maybe even some “fat back.”
My mother’s recipe for macaroni and cheese is a perfect dish to go with green beans)) I’ll list it below.
Well, now there’s a topic I never dreamed I would blog about. If you don’t know what that is, don’t even ask))) I don’t think I’ve used any fat back since I left home, but it was used for seasoning quite a bit when I was growing up. Well, maybe I have when fixing black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s.
It’s just fat from the pig. A hard big lump of fat with or without a rind of skin. Sometimes when there wasn’t any bacon, sausage, or ham to cook, my mother might slice some fat back real thin and fry it. It would snap when you bit into it because it had to be fried crisp to eat. Well, for me to eat it anyway. Some people liked fat back soft when it was cooked in vegetables like peas, butterbeans, or green beans.
Frozen Green Beans
Instead of buying fresh green beans at the farmer’s market, I tend to just buy bags of frozen ones. My family loves them and they are really no trouble at all to prepare.
I can tell you how I cook frozen green beans. This post is not a detailed recipe because you really won’t need one))) I usually start with at least two bags of frozen green beans. My bags were about 12 oz each. For Thanksgiving this year, I cooked three bags. You can cook green beans with bacon or ham, or by themselves with just salt and pepper. When I cook them with bacon or ham, sometimes I use a little bit of brown sugar on the meat, but that’s optional.
How to Cook Green Beans
- Chop up bacon and place in a large pan. You can use thinly sliced or thick sliced. We prefer the thick sliced. Sprinkle (if you wish) a couple of spoons of brown sugar. I used probably about two tablespoons. Brown the bacon being careful not to let it burn. It’s easy to burn with the brown sugar in the pan if you’re not careful. Some people like to add about a tablespoon of vinegar too, but I didn’t.
- Next, add your frozen green beans right on top of the bacon. Add enough water to cover the beans and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beans are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the beans are tender, continue to slowly simmer until the liquid is cooked almost all the way out. You may need to dip out some liquid if you still have a lot. Simmer carefully, if the liquid gets too low you can scorch the green beans. Been there; done that!
- Add more salt and pepper as needed. They seem to take a lot of salt, but do it a little at a time.
Ready to Eat!
Serve your green beans as a side dish with almost any sort of meat. They are great with fried chicken, pork chops, turkey, meatloaf, etc.
Battered and fried green tomatoes go well with green beans too….well they go well with anything at my house! Here’s the recipe:
My husband would eat them every day if I fixed them. They call for cornbread of course, and fried okra makes a perfect complement to them.
I can remember eating green beans in school that did not look like my mother’s and grandmother’s green beans. I told my grandmother one time that the green beans at school were plump and a little crunchy. Not the squished-up kind like we had. She just smiled and said, “well I’ll have to learn how to fix them that way.” I didn’t know that they had just been heated up out of a gallon can. It wasn’t that I liked them better, I didn’t, the texture was just different. They were probably the first store-bought green beans I had ever come in contact with. I should have made sure my grandmother knew I liked hers better.