I mentioned when I shared the braised red cabbage with apples recipe that German cooking isn’t exactly known for it’s vegetables. Potatoes, sure, but beyond that is more limited. Green beans, however, are one that are popular, though often not just as they are. German green beans are more typically served as ‘speckbohnen’ with bacon or a cured ham known as speck. It’s only a simple twist, but adds so much.
I remember having speckbohnen when we travelled to Germany and Austria when I was a child. As I got to that age when a few bit from your parents meal wasn’t enough, but a whole meal on your own was too much, something we loved to get was a house platter. It was a great way to not really have to decide what you wanted to eat as you got to have a bit of everything! It normally included some pork chops, sausages, Wiener schnitzel and various other meats along with some sides like German potato pancakes and commonly these German green beans.
The ‘speck’ in the name is a kind of cured meat typical to Southern German and South through to Northern Italy. It’s a little like prosciutto and has a lovely flavor. I’ve cooked with speck before when I shared my speck, potato and cheese souffle which like this, really shows it’s great flavor.
These beans are really easy to prepare as all you do is cook the green as normal and while they are cooking, soften a little onion in a skillet and add the speck to crisp up. Having looked at recipes, a number of those in English added a bit of vinegar and sugar to the pan, plus sometimes mustard, in other words seasoning similar to German potato salad. However any German recipes I looked at didn’t do this, and it’s not something I remember. It may be regional variation, or just American adaptation over time. Go with what you prefer, either way it will be delicious I’m sure, but I’ve chosen to stick with the plainer version.
Speckbohnen, German green beans, are an easy, tasty twist on plain old beans that goes well with both Germanic foods and many more. They’d be perfect at any Oktoberfest celebration, or any excuse you can find.
Speckbohnen (German green beans)
The simple additions to green beans make for a tasty and much more interesting side dish than beans alone.
- 6 oz green beans
- 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 onion
- 3/3 oz speck or bacon (or prosciutto)
Cook the green beans as you would normally - I'd suggest either steam them for a few minutes, boil or cook in the microwave with a little water. Whichever way, it will only take a couple minutes and you want them tender but only just so they don't become mushy and keep their nice green color. Drain and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, melt the butter in a small-medium skillet. Finely dice the onion and add it to the pan. Cook for a minute while you finely slice and dice the speck or bacon. Add the speck/bacon to the pan and cook for a couple minutes until it is starting to crisp. Add the cooked beans, cook a minute, stirring regularly, then serve.
Note - some people add a little vinegar, sugar and mustard along with the beans to add additional flavor. I'd suggest no more than around 1tbsp vinegar and sugar and 1tsp mustard, but maybe less. I don't think they are really needed but play around with the flavors to taste.
Why not try one of these dishes with these beans:
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