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Featured Cookbook: Butter Beans to Blackberries

butterbeans to blackberries book cover    Butter Beans to Blackberries is much more than simply a collection of Southern recipes. It's a glorious celebration of the Southern garden and the Southern cook, with each chapter devoted to a specific fruit or vegetable. You'll find information and recipes for various beans, peas, greens, corn, grits, tomatoes, roots, mountain mushrooms, okra, eggplant, berries, apples, figs, scuppernongs, and many more.

  "The cooking of the South is diverse, ranging from the delicately spiced melanges of Creole coastal cuisine to the more straightforward down-home slow-simmer style prevalent in the highland mountains. It is nearly impossible to define by specific cooking techniques, spices, or ingredients, although to paraphrase: You'll know it when you eat it."
~Ronni Lundy
Butter Beans to Blackberries
Author Ronni Lundy grew up in the mountains of Kentucky, and her knowledge and love of Southern food is evident throughout. Recipes range from the familiar and traditional Classic Apple Stack Cake, Sweet Peas and New Potatoes, and Southern-Style Green Beans to present-day innovations like New South Moussaka, Watermelon Salsa, and Mizithra Grits Casserole. I was delighted to see presentation tips and ideas with several of the recipes, such as "...if you swirl a teaspoon of pimiento paste on top of a bowl of the simplest corn chowder, guests will "ooooh" and "ahhh" over your culinary skill."

Can't find fresh speckled butter beans or purple-hull peas in your area? Along with an abundance of mouth-watering recipes, the book offers dozens of mail order resources for unique or hard-to-find foods and seeds as well as contact information for many regional farm markets and festivals.

This book is definitely a "must have" for anyone interested in Southern cooking and Southern food culture.

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Recipes & Excerpts

Classic Southern Butter Beans
Serves 6 to 8
This is the fundamental recipe for fresh shelled butter beans. If you're accustomed to limas cooked in very little liquid (seasoned with a pat of butter and dash of salt on the way to the table), this may seem like a lot of water for cooking, but you want the dish to yield some sweet pot likker to be sopped up by Real Cornbread (page 103). If you're eating Low Country-style, serve the beans over rice.
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 ham hock
  • 6 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh shelled baby lima or speckled butter beans
  • salt
In a large pan, bring the water and ham hock to a boil. Cook, partially covered, at a low boil for about 30 minutes, to season the water. Add the beans and bring the water back to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour (see The Time It Takes, below), until the beans are tender and creamy inside. Remove the hock and add salt to taste. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Reheat thoroughly before serving.

Note: Frozen speckled butter beans or baby lima beans may be used. When you add them to the water, use a wooden spoon to gently break apart clumps.

Jerry's Speckled Butter Beans
Serves 4

My mother loved to cook frozen speckled butter beans in the winter when their rich, creamy texture and nutty flavor were salve to the soul. We made many a meal of these beans, her mashed potatoes (page 171), and Real Cornbread (page 103), and thought ourselves supremely well fed.
  • 2 cups water
  • 16-ounce package frozen speckled butter beans
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • salt
In a pan with a lid, bring the water to a boil and add the butter beans, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to separate. When the water returns to boiling, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, until the beans are tender. (You may need to add a little water near the end of the cooking time to keep the beans from sticking, but you want most of the water to cook away.) Add the butter and allow it to melt, then add the half and half and stir. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, then add salt to taste.

Speckled Butter Beans and Country Ham in Lemon Veloute
Serves 6 to 8

I never thought I'd taste a dish with butter beans as blissfully perfect as my mother's, but this one is its peer, with a velvety texture and the perfect marriage of complementary flavors in the beans, tart sauce, and tangy ham.
    Butter Beans
  • 2 1/2cups water
  • 5 cups fresh or frozen speckled butter beans
  • 1/4 pound country ham with fat removed, cut in small pieces
    Lemon Velouté
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt
In a heavy pan, bring the water to a boil and add the butter beans. (If using frozen beans, use a wooden spoon to gently break up clumps.) When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and let the beans simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the skins are tender and the insides creamy, and most of the water has boiled off.

While the beans are simmering, make the lemon velouté. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in the top of the double boiler, set directly over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking, for five minutes, then slowly whisk in the hot stock. Place over the boiling water and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep a crust from forming on top.

When the beans are done, add the country ham pieces and cook until the ham is just warmed. Meanwhile, remove the velouté from the heat, add the lemon juice, and salt to taste. Remove the beans from the heat, pour the velouté over the beans, and mix well. Serve immediately.

Steam Beans

If you should luck upon a crop of fresh sivvy beans or butter peas still in their pods, and they are truly fresh and very young, you may want to try something my friend Don Nobles of Montgomery, Alabama, recommends: 'I've had butter peas steamed still in their little pods when they are very, very young. Just steamed for a few minutes until they're tender, and then served with salt and butter They've a flavor in between an English pea and a snow pea. Truly splendid!

Butter Beans to Blackberries
Recipes from the Southern Garden
by Ronni Lundy
Published by: North Point Press/Farrar Straus & Giroux
May, 1999


Recipes & Excerpts Copyright © 1999 Ronni Lundy
Book Cover Art Courtesy FSB Associates




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