Taffy’s Succotash

Taffy last year with the faithful Truffle (also a big fan of succotash!)

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. Jan Hallett Weisblat (a.k.a. Taffy) would have turned 94 this September 26. So naturally I’m thinking about her. And it’s only a small step from thinking about her to cooking her favorite dishes. Both the thoughts and the food make me smile.

Each year that I can remember she kept her eyes open in August and September for what she called “pink beans.” They are also known as cranberry beans; when I purchased them recently at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield, Massachusetts, they were labeled simply “shell beans.”

These fresh beans are encased in pink-and-white-mottled skins. When removed from their shells the beans themselves are also white with pink flecks, although they trade those colors for a less exciting uniform beige when cooked.

Whenever my mother saw them, she would buy them, take them home, and make succotash. I have a feeling the beans were grown on her grandparents’ farm when she was growing up because they represented home to her. Now they speak of home to me as well.

I made pink-bean succotash a couple of weeks ago in Taffy’s memory. She never actually measured the beans or the corn or the cream so the quantities below are approximate. If you want to dress up your succotash, add a little sautéed onion, some herbs, and/or a little bacon garnish. My mother never did so the recipe below is rather plain.

Its flavor is far from plain, however. The beans have a subtle but unmistakable nutty taste. When you throw in the corn and the cream (or half and half) and grind a small hill of pepper on top you end up with a dish fit for a queen.

The succotash embodies my mother’s ability to take joy in simple, everyday pleasures. If I can be half as joyful in my lifetime, I will count myself lucky.

Succotash à la Taffy

Ingredients:

2 cups shelled cranberry beans
2 cups water, plus more water as needed
salt to taste
the cooked kernels from 3 ears of corn
cream or half and half as needed (between 1/2 cup and 1 cup)
lots of freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Pick over the beans, removing any that have turned brown.

In a medium saucepan bring the cranberry beans, water, and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy. This will take between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on the age of the beans. (The younger they are, the less time it will take.)

Stir the beans from time to time while they simmer, and be sure to add more water if you need to. At the end of the simmering process the beans should still have a little—but not a lot of—liquid in their pan. Do not drain off this liquid.

Stir in corn and cream or half and half to taste. The beans should be in a gentle liquid bath but shouldn’t be drowning. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until everything is heated through.

Grind pepper over the succotash and serve it. Serves 6 to 8 hearty eaters.

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14 Responses to “Taffy’s Succotash”

  1. Flaneur says:

    As lovely as the beans are in the photograph – and their fuschia and butter shells are gorgeous – neither their picture, the photo of the completed dish nor even the reality of the dish at the table fully do justice to the wonderful flavor of this dish. I was fortunate to have been there, at Tinky’s dinner, when they were served and was surprised that I had not only seconds but thirds. Jan was right in favoring this succotash. Part of my surprise and delight was that the succotash I’d grown up with was the vegetable melange served in elementary school cafeterias: canned corn and lima beans, sometimes with canned peas added as well. If there ever was green pepper as an addition, it was done in a manner to insure that the outcome was even more revolting. Tinky nailed Jan’s succotash in describing it as “nutty” in taste. It is a heavenly nuttiness; it is her recipe that reveals that succotash can be sublime. Serve the succotash along side a plate of fine Roquefort and with a splash of bourbon on ice and you’d have a fine way of remembering Jan tomorrow, on her birthday.

  2. Susan says:

    Tinky … I planted these this year and just loved them … they take a lot of space in the garden, but they are really yummy and worth it! Love your recipe.

  3. Carol says:

    I enjoyed the posting about your mother and her succotash recipe. As always, brilliant writing! I will think of “Taffy” on her birthday with warm wishes to you and the family.

  4. Grad says:

    What beautiful beans! I’d have bought them as well, although I’m not sure I’d have known what to do with them…but now I do. Like Flaneur, I remember succotash as being a particularly nasty dish because, what kid likes lima beans? Now, of course, I love lima beans. Go figure. I think I can find dried cranberry beans.

  5. Mattenylou says:

    Tinky- My brother and I had several phone calls a few weeks ago about Mom’s succotash recipe, or what we could remember of it. I was trying to recreate it, but it was just not the same. After several attempts using canned beans, we finally decided it had to be Dad’s beans from his garden that made the difference. I hated shucking those beans when I was a kid, so I bought canned beans instead, haha… big mistake! Your speckled beans are just the same ones I remember from years ago, carefully hoeing and weeding around as seedlings, then picking, and later shucking on those hot summer afternoons, lol… needless to say I don’t grow my own so I’ll have to find a store or stand that sells cranberry beans and try your Mom’s recipe. Thanks!

  6. Anne says:

    Hi Tinky, just catching up after our holiday ….. and was amazed to read that the 26th was your Mum’s birthday – as it was my Dad’s!! (he woud have been 93) It was also my parents’ wedding anniversary – it woud have been their 66th …….. Anne x

  7. tinkyweisblat says:

    I love the Roquefort and bourbon idea, Flaneur, and thanks for the kind words about this dish.

  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    Ah, Susan, if only I were a gardener. I’ll have to mooch from you next year……

  9. tinkyweisblat says:

    Same to you, Carol; it’s lovely to think of her. And of you.

  10. tinkyweisblat says:

    Grad, you could certainly try this with fresh limas as well!

  11. tinkyweisblat says:

    I love your memories, Mattenylou. I hope you found the beans!

  12. tinkyweisblat says:

    Let’s enjoy the memories, Anne! I love coincidences.

  13. Nancy says:

    When I was a little girl growing up, my mother would make the same thing. We called them October Beans and she would put white corn with them to make succotash. One of my best memories with my mom. I believe she learned this from her mother. This brings back great memories of the meals we had when I was a kid.

  14. tinkyweisblat says:

    I love hearing stories like that. Thanks for visiting, Nancy!

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