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How To Make Leather Britches - Dried Green Beans

Foxfire Book how to make leather breeches-dried beans  

Ever heard of Leather Britches? They're simply dried green beans. Back in the day before-canning jars and pressure cookers were common place-dried green beans-"leather britches" were the most popular way of preserving green beans for use during the winter months.

I've heard of leather britches-but honestly I've never eaten them. In my life time-we ate either fresh green beans or the ones Granny had canned. But making and eating leather britches is something I've always wanted to try.

How to make leather breeches

I consulted my Foxfire books (see first photo) to see how to string up the green beans. The books gave varying directions from different folks. Some suggested breaking the beans before threading them on a string-others said to only string the beans before threading. Miss Cindy shared with me-her Grandmother didn't thread her leather britches at all-she simply placed the green beans on a screen and set it in the sunshine-taking it back inside at night-and repeating the process until they were dry.

How to dry green beans

Whether to put the stringed beans in the sun was another point with varying opinions. Some felt the beans should be in direct sunlight others felt indirect sunlight.

Making leather breeches

Even how to thread them on the string was up for debate. Certain folks said put the needle through the end of the bean pod but never through a bean. Others said put the need directly through the middle of the bean pod making sure you went through a bean. After the beans had dried-some folks simply left them on the string-taking them down as they needed them-others removed the beans once they were dry and stored them in sacks or bags.

So after digesting all of the info-what did I do? I pulled the string from all the green beans, threaded the needle through the end of the bean, and hung my string of leather britches in indirect sunlight where there is plenty of air flow. Will it work ? I don't know do you?


p.s. Sometime this winter-I'll let you know how I cook the leather britches and if I like them enough to string some more next summer.


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We still do this. No millers bother ours (moths). I have a screened in porch, just perfect. But hey, you are gonna wash em anyway. You buy from a big chain store, and would prob shudder at what has touched your food!! These beans have the best flavor! Cooked up with ham or streak-meat. You gotta try it. The old folks knew a thing or two. And I am happy to see someone passing it along. When they are good and dry, cut em down and put into a clean cloth sack. Toss in a handful of salt and shake it up. Ready to store. Just use a string to tie the top of your sack up, and hang in your kitchen (quite pretty). My mother had several pillow cases that she used just for this. I remember her sunning and ironing the pillow cases to 'get em clean'. Such wonderful memories. Keep in mind that the beans will be a dark color when cooked, and have intense flavor. Not like fresh beans at all. But way better!! Thanks so much for the post. I may cook some up for tomorrow:)

Wow, what a trip back in time . . . I remember hearing tanning your leather britches; but never eating them. I was looking at a YouTube about canning green beans when the lady pointed to her green beans sitting in the corner of her kitchen and mentioned that they were her "Leather Britches." Curiosity tweaked, I went to to see what were leather britches. I then found this blog and struck real gold.

After reading the comments and a few people mentioned shuck beans and Moths it was then that I knew what they were taking about. My family came form Kentucky and I lived in Georgia, so shuck beans is what I heard them called. I didn't know how they were made because I was only old enough to eat them. I remember that they were a real treat around Thanksgiving time and my grandpa would send down a box of them for my mom to cook for the family. Just thinking about the turkey, shuck beans, cornbread, mash potatoes, and white sweet corn and cranberry sauce and turkey gravy just makes my mouth water. Then the next day we would have ham hocks, shuck beans, fresh, hot cornbread, greens and apple pie. Best Thanksgiving week ever.

After reading everyone's statements, I will make my own shuck beans this season, even though I now live in California. Thank-you everybody for your comments. It really means a lot to read them and remember way back when . . .

Wow this really takes me back! Shuck beans were always used for special occasions and holidays. There is nothing like them!! I am going to string some up myself, my Cincinnati neighbors wont know what to think Lol

Lorraine-thank you for the comment! I think cut short beans could be used for either one. Most folks prefer to use a certain type of bean for a certain process-but usually they can be used interchangeably.

Hope you have a great night!


Blind Pig The Acorn
Celebrating and Preserving the
Culture of Appalachia

I haven't read all the comments but by half. I googled "cut short" beans and found this.
Now to my next question,are "cut short" beans shucky beans or green beans?

I grew up in Eastern ,Ky, Floyd county,,on the Leather Britches issue, we always did this, but we called them shuck beans, but whatever you called them,, we strung them up on thread by running the needle between a bean and the next bean, when the string was full, we would hang them on a clothes line or where ever they could be in dry air until they were completely dry,,then cooking them with a piece of fatback until tender, with cornbread, pickled corn and fried salt bacon...mmmmmm good..

The term Ramps. I seen this in a earlier post posted by Steve.I remember Ramps when I was a kid. They grew wild and had tops that looked like a tulip. Wow this brings back such fond memories. Too bad times can't be as simple as they were then.

I grew up in southern West Virginia. I remember my parents would string the beans and spread them out on sheets of tin. They would set them out in direct sunlight to dry. They would bring them inside at night. The comment in a earlier post about the moth. I remember people called the moths millers. I live in Illinois now and I learned if I wanted people to know what I was talking about I called them moths. LOL

I have enjoyed reading your blog so much. For some reason I stated to a co-worker about leather britches and she had no idea what I was talking about. I pulled up the name and came across your blog. How wonderful it is to read such stories with laughter and tears. My grandmother made leather britches every year. I don't think I have ever eaten them but I do remember seeing them hanging out on her screened in porch. I think I may try some next summer to see how they taste. Oh, and your comment on miller or moth, I had to laugh. I'm from the southern part of West Virginia and growing up we always called them millers. My husband is more citified and he called the moths. I remember he would always correct me until I broke and started calling them moths too. I think I will go back to my country ways and call the millers again! Thank you again for such a wonderful blog. Brings back such wonderful memories of my grandparents. Oh, and the apron stories are some of my favorites also. I remember grandma always wore an apron over her dresses too. When she did not have it on that meant she was at church or at the store. Keep the stories coming, I love the memories it pulls from my mind.

Granddaddy would spread them out on a screen like you buy at the hardware store with a wood frame and put then up in the barn loft for a few days they would turn tan and we would cook them with either salt pork or a ham hock. let me add one more Grandma Madge would slice lettuce like shreds and slice green onion and wilt the lettuce with fat back grease called Grease Salad soooo gooood.

Being raised on the Northern banks of the Ohio River we always had leather britches growing up and usually tried to plant a later crop to harvest in early fall. When I was about 6 years old we went from a coal stove to forced air gas floor furnaces. The two floor grates were placed in doorways between rooms to maximize heating. From that point on it looked like we had green bean curtains dividing the rooms during the fall. They were the best bean dryers ever. It would not be Thanksgiving without leather britches. I was pleasantly surprised to find leather britches on my future mother in laws table. But when I commented on them, they looked at me like I had two heads. Apparently in Buckhorn Ky. and most of Eastern Kentucky the proper name is Shuck Beans. Regardless of the name they are delicious and I still make them every year.

So glad to have stumbled on this!! Looking forward to putting back beans this year and I do prefer "leather breeches" to canned :) Loved reading everyone's comments! My grandma would string the beans and lay them out on a sheet or bro2n paper bags in the sun for a few days, 5hen she strung them in sewing strings and hung them in the attic over the carport. She actually had bags she had fashioned out of cheese cloth to keep the dust and such off of them. After they were good and dry, she placed them in an old feed sack until she cooked them. She would soak them over nights, then cooked them with side meat and potatoes :). Some of the best eating ever!!

I read about this, and was told by my Granny. I can't wait to give it a try this year with our bean crop. Maybe it will save us some space in our cubbards with the canning jars. I'll be trying quite a few varieties of beans though. This is a great post, and some great comments! Keep up the great work!! :)

Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, Kentucky sells a lot of the old tender greasy, cut short and fall beans. They have a website if you google them (I don't know it offhand) and will mail them to you. I think they also do a seed swap around the first week in October. Get good directions before you go because the one time I went, I ended up on the wrong road. Luckily many friendly people in the area know Bill Best and the SMAC and can give directions.

Thanks for the tip on saving ham juice for beans.

My mom does this every year but she just puts them on a white sheet out in the sun...we love them!

thanks, this really works. Good to know when we have all these beans from a good crop!

Getting a bushel of half-runners and a bushel of pink tips tomorrow. Going to can the half-runners and make leather britches out of the pink tips. Can't wait to see how the leather britches turn out. I remember my grandparents stringing up beans to hang for drying on their porch. I'm still lucky enough to have them around (ages 85 and 92)and will string mine to hang on their porch to dry, as well.

Steve-thanks for the great comment!

Blind Pig The Acorn
Celebrating and Preserving the
Culture of Appalachia

Great web site, I just stumbled across it!! I live in SE Kentucky and ate "shucky beans" all my childhood (I'm in my 40's now). They were usually reserved for a "treat" side dish in the Fall and Spring, especially for holiday meals and pot-luck dinners. I have also heard them called "leather britches," usually by the older folk. It seems everyone has a recipe for drying them! I last raised a big garden in 1996 but this year my mother and I are sharing one. I plan to dry some beans since we are getting a pretty good harvest of one type, the Valentino bush bean. Not sure how they will taste dried. Our half-runners harvest is miniscule and a row of "greasy beans" haven't produced any yet. Maybe the very dry weather (drought) we have been having! But the Valentino bush beans are doing well! I got the seed from Mennonites through the extension office. Anyway, last time I dried them (and it was white half runners in 1996), removed the strings, broke them and layed them on a sheet in the back window of an extra car I had that I rarely used. I have been told that direct sunlight was best. I believe I would move them around on the sheet every few days and crack the car windows during days when it didn't rain just for some air flow. I also threaded some with needle and thread and hung them up outside on the porch (I had also broke those up in about 1 inch pieces. Both methods worked pretty well. After they dried (can't remember how long, but probably a couple weeks or so), I just put them into Mason Jars and put lids on them. That's all I did. I believe that later, right before i cooked them, I soaked them for some time, maybe a few hours at least. (I would always suggest removing the strings good though before drying since bean strings never taste good - whether fresh or dried!! I remember they cooked up good and tasted great in the fall. A great addition to the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal!! They will not produce as much as fresh beans do due to the drying. I am only guessing but I would say the drying cuts the volume by one-third to one-half, so a pound of fresh beans might only make a half-pound of Shucky beans - just a guess. Shucky beans used to be quite common around these parts, but it seems fewer people grow gardens anymore and many who do don't go through the work of canning, freezing or drying the foods they grow and many young people don't know what they are, even around here. About all the older people are familiar with them though. Even if you can beans and freeze them, I would suggest drying some just to see how your experience turns out. Like I said, if they turn out, they make a great side dish for fall and spring holiday meals or a popular dish to take to your church meal or family gathering. (Note: I have read some places that if you dry them outside in the open air, to "pastuerize" them before cooking to kill any bugs or germs. You can google this but I believe it was setting oven temp to bake LOW, spreading beans on a cookie sheet, using something to keep the oven door propped open a few inches to keep the beans from cooking and keep the beans in the oven for so many minutes in the pre-heated oven. I don't remember the exact time - you can google it. I've never heard of the ole-timers doing this and I haven't done it so don't know if it's worth it or not. I would think a good thorough soaking then the cooking would be enough.) (You CANNOT do this in a microwave oven! It will cook the bean, or burn them if they are not in water!

Holy cow! I love leather britches! I was born in WVa and my mother, her 9 sisters and her mother and grandmother made leather britches. We used Half Runner green beans and it worked marvelous. Just hang them where the air can circulate around them. We hung ours in the wood shed. Nice and dry and hot in the summer, out of the sun. I miss leather britches, good corn bread, green onions with hot bacon grease poured over and salted, RAMPS! I'm sure most of you have NO idea what I'm referring to but that's okay, most people don't know. I sure do miss those things.

My family all live in KY but I was born and raised in FL. My uncle has always supplied us with shuckey beans and we have them every year at holiday time. Believe me when i say they keep forever! The last batch I cooked was 10 years old and they were AWESOME! The old timers in the hills knew what they were doing before refrigeration was available. I soak overnight, drain add fresh water, some hog jowls or side meat and cook until tender. Paired with a pone of corn bread you will be in heaven!

This is probably way too late to be of use, but y'all might want to check out - they sell real, honest-to-goodness heirloom leather britches beans: cut shorts, greasy beans, tobacco worms.

My folks used to string "pink tip greasies" on waxed dental floss in our shed till they dried. Then stewed them with ham and onions.

My Mother in Law taught me how to make leather breeches, and she always planted what she called "cut-short" greenbeans for that purpose. Now when I ask for cut-short seeds, they , at the feed store don't seem to know what I'm talking about. Does anyone know another name for cut-short green beans. We used to grow them in the corn so they could grow up the stalks and it worked well. If not are there any particular green been that dries better than any other. I have white half runners growing now.

I loved reading this. It makes me so homesick for WV. I grew up there but now live in Florida. WV will always be my home. My mom used to make these leather britches when I was a little girl. I remember helping her string them with a needle. Some people also called them Fodder beans, not sure why. I still can some. Most people here have never heard much about canning etc. I always do green beans in February and tomoatoes in November when they are in season along with other veggies. This makes me want to do the beans again. They are wonderful.

Thanksgiving, 2009.
We have livec in NYC and environs since 1987 but have relatives still in Appalachian KY. They sent us Shuckey beans and we added them to the Thanksgiving menu. What a treat. We soaked ovenight, poured off the soaking water (I know some do not) then simmered on the stove in chicken stock (made from last Sunday's roasting hen) for three or so hours with salt port (could not get fatback in NY). Lovely. My husband said that at the first bite, for just a moment, he was six again. So it was worth it all

Ginger Leigh
Thank you for the lovely comment! So glad you enjoyed your visit to the Blind Pig-and I sure hope you drop back by often.

Blind Pig & The Acorn
Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
All at

Growing up in Stuart, VA, my Granny White would make leather britches using "speckled Beans." (They were white with purple/red specles all over the pod and bean.)

She would string them by the ends with a needle and sewing thread and hang them up in the back room where the old kitchen used to be. They would stay there till she needed them for cooking. I can remember them hanging on the wall in bunches during the Fall. She always canned her green beans though. I guess it was a matter of preference.

Lovely blog: I enjoyed looking through the different posts, and got a bit homesick too. I am especially glad to see you preserving folkways around you.

Even though we live on a farm these days, it's not the same with out Granny and Grandpa!


I am very interested in knowing if your method works and what the beans taste like. I'm sure the leather breeches would be delicious in soups and stews. Looking forward to finding out.


Hey Tipper, I made Leather Breeches a couple of years ago in the dehydrator. They didn't seem quite as good as the old fashioned way. It is also not an efficient way to dry a quantity of beans. The dehydrator full of beans equaled about one cooking when it was complete.

I've always soaked then over night, sometimes with a half teaspoon of soda. Pour that off then parboil them, that takes care of any dust or such.

I've also put a dried hot pepper in the pot with the dried beans. The peppers are dried on a string just like the beans----MMMMM good eatin!

Cre-I 'de-stringed' the beans first. One of the old timers in the Foxfire book said too-and it made sense to me. I thought it would be one less step to worry about when I cook the beans this winter.

Blind Pig & The Acorn
Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
All at

Rick-I was reading in The Foxfire Book and also in The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. I'm sure there is info about leather breeches in some of the Foxfire numbered editions as well.

Blind Pig & The Acorn
Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
All at

interesting post--I've never heard of drying green beans.

Hey Tipper, loved reading along with your Pickle Along. I have made lime pickles, you soak the sliced cucumbers in pickling lime and then mix up and boil lots of sugar,vinegar and all kinds of spices. Yum o
I have never strung green beans. I have helped can tons when I was still home. My favorite "Granny" memory was wishing I was old enough to sit out on Granny's porch and snap beans with my aunts, Granny, and Mom. I finally did get old enough, and got to sit by Granny. She shore was particular bout how short I had to snap them beans. She also would scold me if I popped one,or five,in my mouth and started crunching away on them, raw. I still prefer eating them raw, or fried down w/fat back, or bacon and some season salt,really limp and OMGoodness! talk about good eatin. Gotta go I am taking up all the space today.

Funny how there are directly opposite opinions on this one. Good luck.

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