Country Kitchen Comforts: Pinto Beans, Turnip Greens, and Cornbread
Having grown up and lived in the South all my life, I have eaten my share of peasant cuisine. After I left home and went out on my own, I discovered that there were many comforts of the country kitchen that I had left behind. Over the years I have collected recipes, especially from my mom, and have spent countless hours in the kitchen doing something I love, which is cooking.
I believe in eating healthy as often as possible. However, some of the foods mentioned in this article contain butter, bacon, bacon fat, salt, etc. So if you’re watching your salt and fat intake, some of these dishes may not be for you or may require modification. Alterations, however, will affect the flavor.
Here is a roundup of some of my country kitchen favorites:
- Pinto Beans and Cornbread served with a Fresh Large Green Onion and Hot Chow Chow
- Turnip greens topped with crumbled bacon, a halved boiled egg, and Texas Pete® Pepper Sauce
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Fried smoked pork chops in white sauce served with crackers
- Green beans cooked with small white potatoes
- Open biscuits with sausage patties topped with white sauce
- Day-old cornbread served in a tall glass of chilled buttermilk
- Salted ham served on homemade biscuits
- Freshly cooked corn on the cob buttered, then salted and peppered
- Pan-Seared Cabbage in Bacon Fat
- Country fried steak served with white sauce, tomato slices and crackers
- Savory Beef and Pork Pie Topped with Bacon, Ketchup and Brown Sugar served with Mashed Potatoes topped with Brown Gravy and Hot Buttered Biscuits
- Homemade beef stew with fresh white bread slices and cold iced tea
The secret is in the seasoning
Seasoning is an important part of peasant cooking, just like in any other type of cooking. Not all country recipes have to include bacon and/or butter. For example, let’s take a closer look at the seasonings in my recipe for the field-cooked green beans that I was used to eating growing up.
You can use canned or fresh green beans. If I’m using canned beans, I opt for Green Giant® or another quality brand, preferably the can variety with the white interior. I usually get the large can and two regular cans of whole white potatoes.
I put the beans in the pot, liquids and all, and add a beef bouillon cube or two. You may need to add a little water depending on how much liquid is in the can; the beans should start just barely covered or with the water level even with the tops of the beans.
I add a little cooking oil; I don’t normally measure things like this, but I’d guess it would be a tablespoon or so. I simmer them until the liquid is half full, then I drain the potatoes and add them to the pot.
I shake the pot gently so the potatoes slide down into the remaining liquid. You don’t want to stir because it will break the potatoes. I cook until there is hardly any liquid left; then I turn off the heat and cover until dinner time. They are even better after sitting down for a bit.
Southern cooks are frequently accused of cooking food until it is depleted of nutrients. This may or may not be true, and if it is, it probably is more so with some dishes than others. It is a matter of personal preference and I like my green beans cooked this way and so does my family.
I plan on cooking green beans tonight, and they will be served alongside chilled deviled eggs, whole green onions, fresh sliced and salted red tomatoes, homemade coleslaw, cornbread, and iced tea with fresh lemon wedges. My husband is already asking what time we are going to eat!