Old-fashioned String Beans Recipe

green snap beans

Sometimes old cookbooks contain recipes for very basic foods that barely seem to need a recipe. For example, I recently came across this recipe for String Beans in a hundred-year-old cookbook.

String Beans Recipe
Source: Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1921 Edition)

But, when I look more closely, I realize that the directions are very different than how the beans would be made today. Boiled string bean recipes today often call for leaving the beans whole and merely breaking the tips off the beans; other modern recipes call for breaking the beans into 2- 3 inch pieces. The hundred-year-old recipe, however, called for breaking or cutting the beans into small 1-inch pieces.

Modern recipes for boiled string beans also call for cooking them just a few minutes – 5 minutes or maybe 10 max. However the old recipe directs cooks to boil the string beans for  1-to 3 hours!!!

What the heck?  But, next thing I knew I was boiling string beans for 1 hour. (I couldn’t bring myself to boil them for more than that).

The verdict – The beans were very soft, but still maintained their shape. My daughter said, “Why did you ruin some perfectly good green beans? They taste like frozen or canned beans.”

Old-fashioned String Beans

  • Servings: 2 - 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pound string beans (green beans or wax beans)

1 teaspoon salt


Break the tips off the string beans. Cut or break into 1-inch pieces. Wash beans, then put into a sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Add salt for last 1/2 hour of cooking. If most of the water boils away, add additional water. Remove from heat and drain. Put in serving bowl and top with a dab of butter.


15 thoughts on “Old-fashioned String Beans Recipe

  1. Growing up in the south, Mom cooked green beans (which we called ‘snaps’) for hours….. They had such a wonderful flavor compared to just cooking them for a shorter length of time. Of course, they were usually seasoned with bacon or pork fatback.

  2. Love this: “the next thing I knew I was boiling string beans for 1 hour.” If you were following a 100 year old recipe, then you follow the directions, right? Every time I cooked fresh green beans at my parents, Dad would say they were “raw.” 🙂

  3. I wonder if 100 years ago it was a different variety of green been. One that was tougher or more fibrous so they needed to be cooked longer or they would be hard to chew. Just a guess.

    1. I use 2pounds of long fresh stringed beans don’t snap them just throw them in crackpot with 4 pieces of cooked lean crumbled bacon and the juice from from 2 fresh lemons and 2 cups of chicken bone broth. I never have left overs.

  4. I had to read the recipe twice for when it said to cook for 1-3 hrs .. I thought maybe I misunderstood and it was a canning recipe. To can you do cook in a hot water bath for 3 hrs, in a pressure canner .. 90 minutes.

  5. I grew up eating beans like this, but cooked with (forgive me) bacon grease instead of bacon. All vegetables in the south were cooked until tender and seasoned with bacon grease. I use butter today and cook mine about 45 minutes to an hour. While the steamed vegetables and short-term cooked ones are supposedly better for you, I just don’t care for the taste of texture. Love this look back at a timeless food!

  6. My mother would make green beans and cook them with ham – then we’d have them again with a little onion added, then she’d ad bacon on the 3rd day, day 4 would see some potatoes added… and it would continue. That rhyme about peas porridge hot is just about what it was! By the time the last serving was eaten they had to be at least 7 days old and cooked to mush!

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