Old Fashioned Slow Simmered Green Beans have been in my life since I was old enough to eat. The first indication a holiday feast brewing in the kitchen is the smell of bacon and onions cooking at the crack of dawn.
My grandmother and mother both made green beans often. I don’t know if it was tradition, cheap, a comfort food, or just the first vegetable that came to mind at dinner time. When I was growing up, everyone’s normal evening meal included a protein, a starch and a vegetable.
My grandmother used a spoonful of bacon grease when she cooked almost anything. She had a can of bacon grease sitting on the stove. She added to that can every time she made bacon for breakfast, which if memory serves me right was daily. My grandfather loved his bacon. Even after my grandma passed, he still made himself a breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits, and grape jelly. He also drank his coffee out of a saucer instead of a cup. I never did know why he did that. It remains a mystery to me to this day. He lived to be 89 and had it not been for dementia he probably would have lived longer than that.
There was family talk on more than one occasion about his true age. He and his siblings would argue over what year they were actually born. Grandpa swore he was older than his birth certificate said. In his days, they were born at home and it was up to the family to file for a birth certificate. But as far as the government was concerned he was 89 the day he died. Got side railed again – so sorry, but this is blog started as a way to preserve my history through the story of cooking for my kids and my granddaughter.
Back to the can of grease……… One of my uncles refused to eat anything with “that old nasty grease in it.” In his defense, I never saw it empty, I never saw it washed, and I don’t ever remember their being a new can.
I do not use old bacon grease in my green beans. In fact, I use new bacon cut into small pieces and fried right in the pan I am about to dump canned green beans into (don’t judge, green beans that have been cooked all day long in a pot has no nutritional value left anyway). Once the bacon has cooked, I stick some paper towels in there to remove most of the bacon fat. The flavor is really in the little brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. No worries, it won’t be stuck for too long, it will simmer its way off and make the green bean delicious.
This recipe will produce a glorious pot liquor that needs to be soaked up with cornbread or drank straight from the bowl. You see, pot liquor isn’t reserved just for greens. My grandma used to say that all of the vitamins and good for you things were in the pot liquor, but let’s face it, when you start with canned beans, a good portion of the vitamins and minerals were probably washed out at the green bean factory.
These can be made with fresh green beans too. I have spent many summer days sitting with my grandma or my mom cleaning “string beans”. I just prefer the texture of canned ones myself. But I guess there is probably more nutrients left when cooking with fresh.
In a large saucepan placed over medium high heat, add bacon and cook until bacon is brown.
Reduce heat to medium. Drain off bacon grease, if desired. I use paper towels to blot out most of the fat.
Add onions to pan and cook while stirring, until onion are translucent.
Add green beans and liquid from can. Stir to mix the bacon and onions with the green beans.
Add 3 cans of water to pan. More may be needed, make sure the beans are covered with water.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon-pepper to taste is using, I'm using about 1/2 teaspoon!
Bring green beans to a boil over high heat.
Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours. Longer simmering is fine, just be sure to add water occasionally so beans do not dry out.
Leftovers can be refrigerated and then reheated on the stove top over medium heat.