Pennsylvania Dutch String Beans
My garden is flourishing and this year’s crop of Cherokee wax beans has been bountiful. The pods are large, blemish-free, and absolutely delicious. Miraculously, the rabbit family that inhabits my garden hasn’t spotted them yet (or they think carrot tops and red beet greens are tastier)!
I know in the South, they call wax beans “string beans,” but I am from the North and my PA Dutch ancestors called them string beans. My great grandparents had a “truck patch” and always grew enough yellow string beans to supply several households for the year. My grandmother and great grandmother used to prepare them for winter by blanching half of them for the freezer and drying the other half for storing in two-gallon mason jars.
String beans were only served two ways: as fresh string beans and potatoes or as dried string beans and ham. There were no other recipes for them. Reflecting back, I understand why. These were hearty, satisfying dishes that were rich in flavor and simple to prepare.
Pennsylvania Dutch String Beans and Potatoes
- 8 medium red potatoes
- 8 cups fresh yellow wax beans
- 12 oz evaporated milk
- 1 stick butter
- cold water
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Peel potatoes and cut into large one-inch cubes. Place the potatoes in the bottom of a stockpot and cover about three-quarters of the potatoes with cold water. Clean the yellow wax beans by removing their stems and then place them on top of the potatoes in the stockpot. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
(Do not stir — allow the string beans to steam as they rest on top of the potatoes.) Heat on high until the water boils; then reduce heat to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat when potatoes are done. Do not drain.
Add the evaporated milk and butter to the pot of vegetables. Return the pot to the warm burner until the butter melts. Gently stir to combine the ingredients. Ladle into large bowls and serve. This Pennsylvania Dutch string beans and potatoes recipe serves 4-6 as a main course.
Pennsylvania Dutch Smoked Ham with Dried String Beans
- 1 smoked ham
- 4 cups dried string beans*
- 8 medium red potatoes
- black pepper
Place smoked ham in large roasting pan. Add dried string beans and enough water to cover the string beans. Season with black pepper. Cover the roasting pan and bake at 325°; 20 minutes for every pound of ham. Baste the ham periodically with the broth from the pan. (You may need to add water if you see that the beans are not covered with broth.)
When one hour of baking time remains, peel and cut the potatoes into one-inch cubes. Add them to the roasting pan, cover, and continue baking until done. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Ladle string beans, potatoes, and broth into large bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of ham and serve. This
ham and string beans recipe serves six as a main course.
*Dried string beans are available at specialty markets. We dry our own on an old drier that we fill with water and heat over a portable double-burner. It takes many hours and lots and lots of string beans, since they reduce to about one-eighth their original volume.