Forty years ago, in an early collection of Southern Living vegetable recipes, the "Final Touches" chapter included clever twists on classic sauces and festive relishes along with novelties such as chive-blossom vinegar and tarragon-herb butter. In defense of the old-school recipes in the preceding chapters, we offered this introduction: "Southerners have never apologized for cooking their green beans 'to death,' but it is not widely known that properly motivated we can cook them as crunchy as the most sophisticated chef can and dress them in many ways, from herb-buttered to hollandaised to amandined. It is just that we may want to cook them half a day with salt pork or ham hocks if we are alone with the home folks; and that is a preference that bears no relationship to ignorance."
As much we love all the new crunchy, barely blanched, paired-with-walnuts-and-feta green bean creations (and we truly do), there's still something so wonderful about the way a hambone broth infuses old-fashioned Southern-style green beans with a salty, meaty smokiness.
3 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
1 (1/2-pound) ham hock
5 cups water
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
How to Make It
Remove the strings from the beans, and cut the beans into 2-inch pieces. Wash the beans thoroughly.
Place the ham hock and 5 cups water in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Add the beans, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until tender.