Grandma’s Green Beans
Here’s an alternate to the modern barely-cooked vegetables you are used to getting in restaurants. This is old fashioned comfort food, which will add a pleasing satisfaction to almost any meal.
It’s best to start with fresh string beans. Wash them and pick over them to discard any stems or wilted beans. In the old days, we used to handle each bean individually, breaking off each end and pulling one end down to remove the string from along its back.
But today’s varieties of beans don’t have much in the way of a string, so take advantage of that by lining up six or seven beans in a row and whacking off the ends all at once. If the beans are very long, you might also cut them in half at this point.
You need a ham hock for this recipe. They are available in almost all markets, sometimes two or three to a package. If you’re only doing enough beans for four or five people, you only need one hock, and you can freeze the others for later.
You can also buy a ham steak instead of the ham hock, with similar results. Some people like the flavor better, and some don’t. I guess you’ll have to try it each way.
Put the ham hock, beans, and enough water to cover everything. You want the sauce pan to be small enough so that the amount of water is minimized. In other words, you don’t want one layer of beans in the bottom of a large pot. Make it so the beans and hock are about the same level in the pan. You don’t need to add salt; the ham hock will take care of that. But sprinkle with pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for at least two hours.
Near the end, take out the hock, which may be in more than one piece at this point, and let it cool so you can handle it. When you can, chop it up so that you can separate the bits of ham from the rest, and add the ham bits back into the beans. Now add some butter, and, if needed, some salt and pepper to finish. You can serve them as is, or add a little Tabasco or pepper vinegar. These beans make any meal better!