This simple French inspired green bean recipe, adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a frequently consulted guide on cooking and etiquette in England published in 1861, was a side dish served at dinner feasts during the Edwardian and Victorian periods.
Cut each bean into 4-6 pieces, according to size, cutting them lengthways in a slanting direction, and, as they are cut, put them into cold water, with a small quantity of salt dissolved in it. Measure ½ gallon water into a saucepan, with salt and soda in the above proportion and bring to a boil over high heat.
Put in the beans, keep them boiling quickly, with the lid uncovered, and be careful that they do not get smoked. When tender, which may be ascertained by their sinking to the bottom of the saucepan, take them up, throw them into a colander.
Once drained, put them into a stewpan, and shake over the fire, medium heat, to dry away the moisture from the beans. When quite dry and hot, add the butter, salt, pepper, and lemon juice; keep moving the stewpan, without using a spoon, as that would break the beans. When the butter is melted, and all is thoroughly hot, serve.