Sunday, February 17, 2013


Succotash is a dish that immediately takes me back to my grandmother's house. She seemed to regularly make this and would offer us some when we came to visit. I came to enjoy this dish very much and eventually joined her in a mission to find the beans when local growers stopped growing them for the markets around us.

This dish was especially popular years ago with farm and country folks. The dish is based on beans (often lima beans) and corn. However, the version my grandmother always made is quite different- she always used a shell bean.

The shell beans that my grandmother and great grandmother used seem to resemble closely the cranberry bean- the shells were a red and cream/white variegated pod and the beans also had a similar creamy background with reddish swirls around the bean. When dried, they are often anywhere from a tannish/red flecked color to a darker reddish/brown color. These beans can be difficult to find- I was not able to find them for many years after I married and moved away from the area where I grew up near my grandmother.

For this reason, my grandmother tried to find farm markets that would sell the shell beans so she could make her succotash the "right way"- she actually canned the beans together with fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob. The two would cook together during the canning and the flavors would be so concentrated. After I married, she gave me some beans to plant in our garden, with the idea that we would share some of the harvest with her. So I decided to can the beans and corn together- when I finished canning, I thought I was doing something wrong because almost all of the juices came out of the jar and everything cooked into a solid mass. When I was talking lately with one of my aunts about this recipe, she told me that this is how the jars of beans/corn come out. Anyhow, I do know that the flavor was different than just cooking the beans and then adding in the corn.

My grandmother grew up in a poor family where most of the children spent their teenage years working on nearby farms because the family needed the money and could not really afford to feed and clothe everyone. This is one of the family dishes that was passed down from her mother and could be made with things from the garden that were inexpensive and yet filling. 

If I do not have the home-canned beans and corn, I found that you can get a pretty close flavor by pressure cooking the beans (saves a lot of time and there is no need to soak the beans first) and then simmering the beans and corn together for an hour or two. If you do not have a pressure cooker, try cooking the beans in a crockpot on high for about 6 hours. This is a very simple dish- my grandmother only used the beans, corn, salt and pepper, and some canned milk at the end. Now, on the other hand, I have never been one to leave a simple recipe alone! So I have almost always sauteéd some onions and celery to put in the succotash, added chunked potatoes to make it more of a main course soup and added some other seasonings.

These beans were quite red (usually the beans are more of a brown color when cooked) and colored the succotash. They still taste the same. The corn was farm-fresh grown and frozen white corn that is very sweet.

Servings: about 8-10
  • 1 pound bag of cranberry beans or similar shell beans
  • 1 quart bag (or 4 cups) of frozen or fresh sweet corn with juice
  • 3 medium-large potatoes, cut into chunks (optional)
  • chicken soup base or broth
  • water
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
  • seasoned salt/pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • evaporated milk or cream
  • Cook the beans as instructed on the package, or cover beans in a slow cooker with about 2-3 inches of water and cook on high in a slow cooker for 6 hours, or in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes. Drain beans from liquid.
  • In a dutch oven style soup pot, sauté onions with a couple Tbsp of olive oil until they become translucent. 
  • Add in the garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add the beans, sweet corn, chunked potatoes and enough water/broth to cover all the ingredients. If using water, add in a few bouillon cubes or a few Tbsp of soup base. 
  • Season with salt/pepper and dried parsley.
  • Simmer together until beans and potatoes are soft. 
  • When finished cooking, add in milk/cream gradually until broth is milky-- if you use a whole can of evaporated milk, it will be quite thick. If you desire a thinner succotash, you may need to add a little more water to thin it out. Season to taste, adding more salt as needed.
*We recently ate succotash (made for this picture without the potatoes added) over top of mashed potatoes and it was delicious.

If you are only cooking for a couple people, cook up the entire recipe and then freeze half of the succotash for another time- although it is best frozen if you do not add in the potatoes.


  1. I like to soak dried beans before pressure cooking to remove some of the sugars that cause gastric distress. After soaking 6 hr or overnight, I discard the soak water and rinse the beans. Soaked beans cook much faster and are probably more nutritious. If I decide not to cook the beans that day, I just store the rinsed beans in the refrigerator. As long as I cook them within next few days, they'll be fine.

    For cooking in a PC (pressure cooker), I bring the PC to 15 psi and then just turn the burner off and leave the PC on the burner. As long as the PC holds pressure for the next 15 min, the beans will passive cook.

    My book's website has an article on cooking dry split peas that describes the pressure cooking procedure in more detail. The only difference is that I don't soak the split peas beforehand.

    1. Thanks, Diana, for the helpful information. I read that you could pressure cook most beans unsoaked but they just needed to cook longer. But I agree that soaking may reduce the gas-causing effects. I really like the pressure cooker and find that it works nicely for meats and things that take a while to cook normally.


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