Green beans, sweet corn, Irish potatoes, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, sweet onions, and peppers were just some of the vegetables she grew from seed and put up in Mason jars to get her family through the long, cold winters of Appalachia.
Mrs Sullivan was my grandma and there was never a finer cook in her little corner of the Cumberland Highlands.
Her husband, Big Jim Sullivan, was justice of the peace, and a tobacco farmer who raised the finest Duroc hogs ever reared in rural Knox County.
Hog killing time came at first frost. The animals were dispatched, bled out, then butchered before being trundled into the smokehouse where their hams, jowls and bellies were dredged through big troughs filled with sodium nitrite and plain old salt.
We didn’t go hungry.
I ran up to Berea College Farm in Madison County, Kentucky last month and bought a few pounds of Berkshire hog jowls to convert into jowl bacon. Upon arriving back home in New Orleans I began plotting what dishes I could prepare with them.
This recipe is an homage to Nellie Sullivan and her green beans. Grown men would nearly fight one another to get at a plate of them. This dish was routinely served as a side to country fried steak.
Cumberland Highlands Green Beans With Hog Jowl Bacon
3 lbs Greasy Beans, if you can’t find greasy beans use the green beans on offer
1 lb hog jowl bacon, cooked, chopped
2 lbs Onions, Yellow Sweet, Sliced
* Steam green beans, shock in cold water to maintain bright color, reserve
* Cook onions in bacon fat til brown and soft (upwards of 30 minutes cook time)
* Add greasy beans to onions
* Add jowl bacon
* Cook bacon, onions, and beans with plenty kosher salt and cracked black pepper
* Using a wooden spatula, break up the beans until soft and ‘cooked down’
Please use good, non-iodized salt
What are greasy beans? Bill Best, please report to the lectern:
“Greasy beans have been grown in the Southern Appalachians for many generations and are especially prevalent in parts of Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina.
Greasy beans do not have the tight knit fuzz like that on the hulls of other beans and appear shiny instead. They look “greasy.
People who know them usually think they are the best of all beans and they routinely cost several times more than commercial beans at markets.”
This dish goes really well with sweet corn scraped off the cob and cooked with plenty cream and butter.
Appalachian food is some of the finest on the planet and this dish is a good exemplar of mountain folks cuisine