Serves 6 to 8
I never thought I'd taste a dish with butter beans as blissfully perfect as my mother's, but this one is its peer, with a velvety texture and the perfect marriage of complementary flavors in the beans, tart sauce, and tangy ham.
2-1/2 cups water
5 cups fresh or frozen speckled butter beans
1/4 pound country ham
with fat removed, cut in small pieces
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a heavy pan, bring the water to a boil and add the butter beans. (If using frozen beans, use a wooden spoon to gently break up clumps.) When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and let the beans simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the skins are tender and the insides creamy, and most of the water has boiled off.
While the beans are simmering, make the Lemon Velouté. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in the top of the double boiler, set directly over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking, for five minutes, then slowly whisk in the hot stock. Place over the boiling water and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep a crust from forming on top.
When the beans are done, add the country ham pieces and cook until the ham is just warmed. Meanwhile, remove the velouté from the heat, add the lemon juice, and salt to taste. Remove the beans from the heat, pour the velouté over the beans, and mix well. Serve immediately.
The folks at King Cotton Produce in Montgomery, Alabama, will ship fresh butter beans or crowder peas (including the elusive lady cream peas or purple hull peas) in the continental United States. Call for prices and availability. If they don't have butter beans in stock, it's worth asking what's fresh and shippable. If you're in town, be sure to stop by at lunchtime so you can get a taste of Wylie Poundstone's good Southern cooking as well.
If you want to experiment with bean varieties by growing your own, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Earlysville, Virginia, specializes in heirloom seeds with an emphasis on Southern varieties. Its catalog offers more than half a dozen pole lima beans, ranging from Aubrey Deane, a pre-1890 family heirloom from Greene County, Virginia, to the Worchester Indian Red Pole, reported to be of Native American origin.
Butter Beans to Blackberries
Recipes from the Southern Garden
By Ronni Lundy
North Point Press
A division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.
Hardback, $27.50, May 1999
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created July 1999
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