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August 27, 2009

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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
www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

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 www.heirlooms.org - 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 www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

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!

Tipper,

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.

Blessings,
Mary

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 www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

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 www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

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.
Terry

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

I have read about these beans in the Foxfire series and always wondered how they tasted in comparison to canned beans. Don't forget to write a post about eating them later!

Interesting! I'm excited to learn more with you :)

Tipper,
Great posting on leather breeches. Yes, I remember those beans. This posting brings back many childhood memories.

"Leather breeches", what a great way of eating beans! Will probably never have the pleasure of experiencing, although I should never say never! Good luck, Tipper!
And thank you for sharing another great concept!

Have a wonderful weekend! :))

If you give me some leather britches and a piece of fat back, you'll have a happy man on your hands!

Personally, I like leather britches better than fresh beans, but Shirley's disagree's with me on that. The flavor is completely different.

We dried 2 bushels of leather britches this year. We always hang them on the back porch, the sun hits there in the morning but it is shaded the rest of the day. All told, we probably have a small plastic grocery bag full now that they are dry. It usually takes about a week for them to dry. Just make sure they get plenty of air circulating around them or else they'll mold in the high humidity.

You also get different flavor from different types of beans. My personal favorite type of beans for leather britches are Scarlett Runners. Another favorite are half-runners. We dried Blue Lake's one year and they were good but just seems to dry up to near nothing.

Usually our leather britches are eaten long before winter, in fact, as soon as they get dry and crackly, we soak them overnight and eat them. I've already had a small mess of them this year (so much for saving them).

Shirley's Aunt Meldie dries her leather britches and then she cans them, that way they are ready to heat and eat in the winter, and she doesn't have to soak them overnight. They are good that way too. Aunt Meldie is just like me, she likes the flavor of leather britches, that's why she cans the already dry beans.

Matthew

Tipper, I was also surprised to see green beans; I expected cowhide. :-)

I spent many hours on the back porch when I was little, stringing Leather Britches. They were so good to eat on a cold winter evening.

I remember reading that story in Foxfire. It sound like something I like to try I still a few bean left. What volume is that in?

I've been wanting to do this! LOVE the Foxfire books. Such an interesting read. My MIL gave us the first 6 last year and I love to look through them.

I may have to try this with some end of season beans.

Why did you string them first? Or by string them or you talking about putting them on a string? I interpreted it as snapping the end and "de-stringing" if that makes sense.

Very interesting! I think I may try some in the food dehydrator just to see what they'll do. blessings, marlene

I've heard of them all my life. But never seen or tasted them. I'm curious to see how you like them.

Well, I have to say that I never cared much for the taste or texture of cooked leather britches. I did love the idea of them though.

Not long after I married, I dried some and prepared them for my husband to try. He had never heard of them. One problem I had was, they got got real dusty hanging out on the porch. Even though I rinsed them well before I cooked them, they still seemed dusty to me. That may be part of the flavor, you wouldn't get the same effect with a dehydrator...haha

My Aunt's mother-in-law dried her apples and peaches on a screen. She covered them with cheese cloth to keep the flies off. Now those were so good in the winter. Made the best fried pies.

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