RECIPE: Beans and Taters, Appalachian Style
by Katie Hoffman, Marketing and Promotions Director, Fall Line Farms and Local Roots
Half runners, ready to can. But we saved out a mess for beans & taters!
There are no actual measurements for this “recipe.” You can use more beans and fewer taters, or you can go heavy on the taters and light on the beans. You can’t really mess it up unless you don’t cook it until the beans are good and tender and the taters have turned a little brown from the pot liquor.
And speaking of a mess—a “mess” of anything in Appalachia is just enough. Just enough for a meal, or just enough to last you a week. My usual “mess” fills two half gallon wide-mouth jars and keeps us fed for a week or longer. You do you, but if you make a small batch, you'll wish you had made more.
Wash, string, and break (snap) your mess of beans. We like to break them into bite-sized pieces, approximately an inch or two long.
Put the beans in a pot with just enough water to cover them.
Decide how many taters you want to add. (We like a lotta taters!) Scrub them, then cut them into pieces that are two or three bites’ worth. (TIP: cutting them in large chunks keeps them from just turning to mush in the pot liquor. Use what you have, but red potatoes work a little better than white ones because they hold their shape better.) Put the cut taters in with the beans.
Adjust the water level to just cover it all. (Yes, I mixed different colors of taters. I'm a renegade, and I encourage you to be one, too. Another thread running through Appalachian traditional foodways is frugality. You use up what you have.)
Add salt and pepper, but remember that you are going to add bacon later and don’t go too salty. You can adjust later.
Simmer. And simmer. And simmer. Check them every hour or so to make sure that they don’t need more water. Once the beans are tender and beginning to lend a little of their color to the potatoes, which is usually a couple of hours in, add the meat.
I use both bacon and a little bacon grease to enhance the taste. (This gorgeous bacon came from Belmont Butchery in RVA.) Cook the bacon, chop it into little bits, and drop it in the pot.
By the way--if you're vegan or vegetarian, this is still a great recipe for you. Just add some onions or garlic as the beans earlier in the process, when you put in the salt and pepper. Use olive oil (check our Olive Oil Taproom page) or our Golden Harvest Sunflower Oil for your fat instead of bacon grease. Both are very tasty!
After adding the fat and flavorings, simmer a little more to distribute the flavors, then serve.
My husband, Brett, likes to push the beans and the potatoes apart and eat them separately. He takes a slab of butter and mashes it into the potatoes with his fork. I sometimes add butter, but I like the taste of them together in one bite, so I just let it melt all over everything. So good! Again—you do you. You can’t get it wrong.
I make a fairly large pot of these each week during this time of the year, and we have them every night with whatever is coming out of the garden.
To learn more about this dish and the tradition behind it, read Part 1 of this blog entry: Rich People Don’t Eat this Good.
To shop for the ingredients, visit www.falllinefarms.com.