An Old-Time Southern Method of Preserving Beans

This old-time Southern method of drying and preserving green beans and wax beans is a great organic way to store your bean crop for the winter.
By Grace V. Schillinger
November/December 1970
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Pick your green or wax beans when they're tender and snappy. Wash them and snip off the stem end. The other little sharp pointed tip won't matter, so leave it on. Let the beans drain until fairly dry, or at least till the water has dripped off.

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If you'd like to try preserving beans ("leather britches") in an old-time, way-down-south way, here's how to do it:

Pick your green or wax beans when they're tender and "snappy." Wash them and snip off the stem end. The other little sharp pointed tip won't matter, so leave it on. Let the beans drain until fairly dry, or at least till the water has dripped off.

Take a large darning needle and thread it with white store string. Kite string will do fine. Then thread your beans on the cord, sticking the needle through the middle of each bean. I don't mean down the center of the bean, just through the center, so both ends of the bean are loose.

Fasten the first bean by wrapping the string around it and making a knot so it won't pull through. Then go on stringing till your string's full. Fasten the last bean the same as the first one.

Dry the beans by hanging on a wire in a clean, dry place. An attic or unused room would be okay. Or hang them in your kitchen. They'll be gab grabbers, for sure! In the most high fallutin' magazines you'll see how decorators festoon rooms with the most unusual items. All right—go ahead with your leather britches!

The beans will become dry and wrinkled and you'll wonder what in the world you'll ever do with them, besides just letting them swing there.

In winter, take your dried beans down—several strings for a large kettle—and remove the strings. Rinse well, then put on to cook. When they boil up once, pour off the first water so you know they're clean and to remove any bitter taste. Then pour in fresh water, toss in a ham bone and an onion to keep the beans company and salt and pepper to taste. Cook till tender.

You'll come up with a mighty fine cold weather dish that'll stick to your ribs. These beans will remind you of long-ago years when folks had to preserve much of their food by drying.

Happy eating!

Post a comment below.


8/8/2015 5:43:34 PM
I am from southeastern Kentucky. I grew up eating dried beans. My grand parents used Kentucky wonder pole beans. We called them shook beans. Grandma would cook with bacon fat or lard. Bake a big cast iron skillet of corn bread. I am going to do some this year. I also can bean and tomato juice every year.

8/29/2011 11:12:46 AM
Do you break the bean after they have dried?

12/19/2009 4:54:08 PM
Anita, I can help with what to do with your Leather Britches once they are dry to store them because I used to help Grandma prepare them. You put them in a clean feed sack, sprinkle lightly with salt to keep the bugs out, tie the sack closed and hang it in the smoke house. Don't have a feed sack ? Just use a pillow case. Make sure you put the needle between the beans and not through one or it will rot. Gil

1/9/2009 9:57:40 AM
I am looking for "leather britches", any one in the Lincoln, Gaston, Cleveland or Catawba county of North Carolina that can provide me with some of these.

8/10/2008 1:23:56 PM
Once the leather britches are dried - can you take them down and store them in the freezer - or is it best to 'just let them hang' until ready to use. Thanks

7/1/2008 11:16:24 AM
Does anyone know what type of bean this could actually was a very full green bean -mostly bean- was approx. the size of a white half runner. My parents called them peanut beans.....

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