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.
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