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“Lundy . . . has the art of storytelling . . . and that’s one reason it is such a pleasure to read this book.” —Newsday
In this definitive cookbook, Ronni Lundy taps her Kentucky roots and the recipes and food passions of fellow Southerners—including both home cooks and professional chefs—she met in her travels through the region. As she cooks her way through succulent purple-speckled butter beans, lady cream peas, corn, greens, muscadines, peaches, figs, mayhaws, and other bounty from the Southern garden, she passes along a trove of easy-to-follow recipes that will delight both Southerners who are rediscovering their cuisine and newcomers to it.
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Ronni Lundy has been a pop music and restaurant critic for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, and the editor of Louisville magazine. She now lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
It was likely June when Faulkner and Porter had their historic conversation. At least that's when the butter beans, the speckled ones, come in around Mississippi, Faulkner's home. Wylie Poundstone, the chef at King Cotton Produce Company, a combination produce market and restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama (see Places to Go, page 34 1), says, "It takes awhile for butter beans to grow, but if the weather cooperates, we can have them from June right on through the fall." Bob Gulsby, one of the four owners of King Cotton says, "As long as we've got 'em, we'll ship 'em fresh to anybody who wants to order."
Those who do are often transplanted Southerners longing for the taste of a vegetable as common as July fireflies where they grew up, but hardly known elsewhere. My experience has taught me that asking for butter beans north of the Mason-Dixon is apt to get you a bowl of thick soup made from very large, dried lima beans. It's tasty, but a bit on the brackish side and doesn't have the sweet, creamy flavor of a Southern butter bean at all.
The term "butter bean is used to refer to lima beans, which fall roughly into three categories. First it refers to fresh limas, with the most prized being those with beans of the "baby" variety-small (about the size of your thumbnail) and very tender. Such beans can be found "throughout the United States either fresh (in season), frozen, or canned.
Second, a distinction is made in many regions of the South between this already small lima bean and even smaller ones. These smaller beans may go by different colloquial names. They are known as butter peas in the Montgomery area but may be called "sieve" beans in other parts of Alabama or the South. This is also the bean prized as the "savvy" of Charleston and the surrounding Low Country area of South Carolina. Joe Kemble, assistant professor of horticulture at Auburn University, says the common names are a corruption of the more proper name, sieva bean. Sivvy beans are prized for their sweetness but, alas, don't ship well.
Third, the speckled butter bean is a variety of lima with a colored, mottled ,skin-usually a deep purplish brown and green, or black and green. Speckled butter beans have a creamier texture and more buttery flavor than their green lima cousins. 1, like my mother before me, watch religiously for speckled butter beans in the very brief period in the summer when they may show up shelled and fresh in the produce department of local supermarkets. Although the farmers in this part of Kentucy don't grow them commercially, speckled butter beans are a summer staple in farm markets throughout the deeper South, and if you drive the noninterstate highways in June, you are apt to see hand-lettered signs on the side of the road preferring "fresh speckled butter beans-just in." Most commonly, though, I come by these beans frozen, and sold throughout the year at supermarkets here. They are very nearly as tasty frozen as they are fresh.
Like sieva beans, speckled butter beans sometimes go by colloquial names. For instance, Wylie Poundstone says lots of folks around Montgomery call them rattlesnake beans. And elsewhere a lima variety with cream and maroon speckled skin is called the Christmas bean.
Technically, you can interchange the more widely available baby lima beans for the speckled butter beans in most recipes, but the flavor will be different. All of the beans are delicious, however, and, as Wylie says, "You can do so much with them. They're some of the most versatile vegetables in the Southern kitchen."
Remember to go easy on seasonings when you cook butter beans, since it's the beans' own subtle flavor which you want to emphasize.
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
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.
Southerners cook butter beans anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The choice depends somewhat on the size and freshness of the beans (the larger or older they are, the longer they take to reach tenderness). Some folks like butter beans just at the point when the inside is tender but the skin still pops when bitten. Unless you are making a salad or relish with the beans, I think that's missing the point. Perfect butter beans are cooked until the insides are quite creamy-the reason for the 'butter' in their name.
In most of the recipes for butter beans here, you will find estimated cooking times with a wider variance than is usual in a cookbook. Experiment until you discover what degree of tenderness you prefer, and be aware that even the same type and size of bean will take a different amount of time to cook from one batch to another, depending on the freshness of t e beans. If you want to serve butter beans for a dinner that requires precision timing, cook them to doneness a day or two before, refrigerate them, and reheat thoroughly at serving time.
Copyright (c) 1998 Ronni Lundy
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Book Description North Point Press. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0865475881 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1395859
Book Description North Point Press, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110865475881
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # S-0865475881