Appalachian Food Heritage Preserving/Canning

Cooking Leather Britches

dried greenbeans

Some of you may remember back in August I made leather britches for the first time. (if you missed it-click here to read about how I made them) Since then-they’ve been hanging in my living room.

I actually forgot they were there more than once-but Chitter or Chatter would remind me by asking if I was really going to eat those disgusting looking things. One day last week-I removed the beans from the string and soaked them in a bowl of water overnight.

Next I drained them-put them in a pot, covered them with water, and added a piece or 2 of bacon.

leather breeches how to cook

I cooked them for about 4 hours-making sure the water didn’t cook out. I’d never eaten Leather Britches before-so what did I think? I liked them. I don’t think they are as good as the greenbeans Granny cans each summer-but I certainly wouldn’t mind eating them again. I believe they would have been even better if I had used higher quality beans-I used the last in the bucket at the end of the season-and if I had used fatback to season them with instead of bacon.

I see why the old timers made them each year-it would have saved on using canning jars, the process of drying them was a whole lot easier (to me) than canning greenbeans, and they are quite tasty too. I may just string so many leather britches this summer-that I have to put some in the girls room-that should give them something to talk about 🙂

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts on Leather Britches.


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  • Reply
    October 31, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    So we cooked our britches over the winter (yeah, I’m just getting around to responding) using a ham roast – a new flavour and texture experience for sure. I don’t think I would serve it to guests, nor do I want to eat them every day but they have earned a place in our food preservation toolbox. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 25, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Thank you for the great comment about leather britches and for sharing how you fix them!

  • Reply
    Carl Jones
    April 18, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I have been eating Leather Britches all my life (53 years) I love them. Here’s a couple of tips. First, I use a food dehydrator this makes drying a breeze. Second, use a wide bean, sometimes called Kentucky Wonders or Pole Beans. Third I use fresh pork neck bones to season the beans along with salt and pepper. They are delicious and so is the meat from the neck bones

    • Reply
      June 22, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      Carl, I was gonna say the same thing about the type of bean used. It seemed like the beans my family would string had the beans inside more developed. We never had a dehydrator, sp ours were dried on strings hung on hooks under the eves.

  • Reply
    August 12, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Cameo-thank you for the great comment! You’re right its better than letting them waste and easier than canning!! Good luck-and if you have time let us know how the project turns out : )
    Have a great day!!!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    August 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I’m a mother to a 2.5 year old and a 5-week old. Stringing beans for britches seems much more doable than pressure canning – I can’t nurse and can, but I sure can nurse and string at the same time! My husband is a little more than skeptical of this project, but I’d rather string ’em than let ’em go to waste. Here’s to traditional foods. I’m hoping for the best!

  • Reply
    June parks
    September 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    My mom always made leather britches and we had them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She soaked her beans 24 hours changing water a couple of times before putting the beans into a large pot with good seasoning like ham bone or a big piece of country ham . They have their own flavor and taste which is learned as you eat them more than once.

  • Reply
    [email protected] flowers tea
    May 13, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Hello there:) This is very interesting recipe, to be honest, I’ve never cooked leather britches before,and seeing this here makes me curious to try to cook britches and follow the process you make here. Thanks for introducing me to britches.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    With family all over southwest Va, WV, central and western NC and eastern KY, we always called them leather britches. I found stringing them to be too tedious when I could just spread them out on newspaper and put them out on the patio to dry in the sun. My grandmother had a big attic with a big table where she would lay hers out. Whatever works, but no matter how you do it, you still have to check for bugs.
    I’ve seen them kept in jars after drying but I always like to separate them into gallon bags and keep them in the freezer. I’ve never had a problem with this method.
    There are number of ways to cook them but if you just throw them in water and cook a few hours you are likely to be disappointed. The night before I fill a large pot with water and add salt and the beans for may an hour or two. I pour that out and redo it before going o bed. Next day I pour that out, replenish the water and add stuff. Sometimes I add fatback or salt bacon, sometimes regular bacon and as others have mentioned a big old ham hock is always nice. Sometimes I use beef boulion or just add some small potatoes and a little onion. If nothing with fat I might use little veg oil. If I cook them in a regular pot on the stove I cook them on low heat for maybe 4 hours, if I can wait that long. Sometimes I have used a pressure cooker and that seems to work well but I add the potatoes, if I use them, after I return them to the stove.
    I actually came across this site this evening because I am thinking to try cooking so strips of sirloin with a mess of beans tomorrow and thought I might get some ideas from the internet.
    This is one food that I still cook like my grandparents but many things, like biscuits for example, I go with the new stuff. I just can’t make a biscuit and better than a Pillsbury Grand so I quit trying. Same thing with milk gravy … better from a packet.
    Take care…

  • Reply
    liz jones
    May 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I can honestly say I have never heard of this before!!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve never ate them before, either. I seem to remember them making them in the old days, though. They looked pretty good after you cooked them, maybe I’ll give them a try this year.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Leather Britches. lol
    Well, they do look good. 🙂

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Thomas
    February 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I really got behind on my blog reading this week.I can see the benefit of doing this instead of canning if you are raising your own beans to eat later.Have you figured out the cost of canning, drying, or buying from a store.We may all be raising enough to eat soon.I don’t have a yard, so I bought a couple topsy-turvy containers to grow tomatoes and peppers this year. I think our younger generations would benefit from at least knowing about how to do this.

  • Reply
    Henrietta Newman
    February 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    My Gramma had told me about Leather Britches! I’ve never made them though. We did always string up our peppers and then use them the following year to germinate the seeds for new plants!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I’ve still never eaten them. Maybe this year I’ll have enough to hang up in my livingroom.
    I’m not sure the girls will let those beans hang in their room. They might feed them to the hobos. tee hee

  • Reply
    February 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I think I’d much rather sit and thread beans on string than stand over the hot canning stove. We had some very resourceful ancestors.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I meant to say that the bugs couldn’t get to them in the car.
    BTW, I always loved shuck beans. We grew up eating them during the winter with cornbread! Yum!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I had never heard them called leather britches. We always called them shuck beans, as one other commenter said they did. We have strung them up but usually just put them in the sun to dry out and turn them ever so often. These days a good place to do it is inside a car with closed windows on a hot day. Put them on a towel or newspapers in the back window. They will dry fast there and it bugs can’t get to them.
    Interesting post! You bring back so many good memories for me!! I was born in Eastern KY and we were poor back then and you had to make do as best you could. My Dad always said that poor people had to have poor ways!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Hey Tipper I have never heard of Leather Britches before. They look very much like green beans after being cooked.
    I always enjoy visiting your site. You always have such interesting things.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    They sound good. And bringing them back to life sounds doable. You are an inspiration.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I’m glad to finally get the verdict. I have been waiting to see how they turned out since last fall! Maybe you will get extra canning help from the girls this year after threatening them with leather britches decor!

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    February 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Tipper, I enjoyed this post so much. I ate leather britches when I first moved to the mountains in the sixties.
    This Feb. I got snowed in and it gave me lots of time to think about the old timers and how they made it though the cold winters. The Cherokee called Feb’s full moon FULL BONY MOON, especiallly when they couldn’t hunt and food was scarce.
    I can imagine the old timers enjoyed a big pot of leather britches with ham hock and some corn bread. That would have been a feast.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    February 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I remember my mom making these a few times. I liked them as far as I can remember. course I like most any kinda bean.
    I was chatting w/a sweet lady in the rest. line today and she mentioned cannign sausage. I asked how she did hers and she cans it cold pack, just puts it in thejar raw, packs it down good and then pressure can it for about 90 min. She said she liked it alot better than the other way. She said she canned pork and beef as well.
    take care

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Nancy-My house is dusty too : ) The leather britches did get a little dusty-but soaking them in water, then using fresh water to cook them in took care of the dust.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Down on the coast it is a bit moist for drying veggies. They tend to develop mildew before they are done I love the idea and will pass the idea on to my daughter in dry lands of California and Idaho.
    Thanks for the idea.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Hi ~ I dried some leather britches a few years ago , but I never cooked them. I did put them in a canning jar after they were dried , wonder if they’re still good. I think I’ll check them out and see if they still look okay.
    ~ Many Blessings ~

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I have never heard of this. I’m not too sure I’d want them hanging in my living room. But, I would certainly be willing to try them for sure.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I haven’t eaten leather britches since I was a child at my Granny’s and Aunts house in NC…
    They mostly canned but would dry a lot of produce that wouldn’t keep in the root cellar….
    When you think about it….It makes sense to dry them. As in the olden days moving around for settlers, war times, it would be a lot easier to tote a poke of leather britches with you than a wagon full of glass jarred beans! Especially if you put carried with you venison jerky and dried apples…You could carry a lot of food in a satchel on a horse…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Tipper, my grand mother dried beans and apples on a window screen. She put them out in the sun and carried them in on the porch at night and if it rained.
    I’ve cooked leather britches that I dried in a dehydrator and ones that my grandmother dried in the sun. Seemed to me that my grandmothers were better…..but there was about 45 years between so I don’t entirely trust my memory. lol
    In both instances I soaked then in water with a little baking soda then rinsed them real good. Also added a whole dried pepper to my grandmothers beans.
    They were okay but I’d rather have fresh beans.
    I don’t know if the variety of beans makes a difference. Seems that beans with a full bean in them would be best.
    I have wondered why folks don’t dry their own Pinto Beans. Pinto’s are my favorite dried bean.
    I can remember that my grandmother dried some peas and some variety of bigger dark bean. I don’t remember eating them.
    My next new project is making cheese. I can remember seeing my grandmother making cottage cheese. You know we did such a good job on making yogurt and Greek yogurt, it inspired me. I’ve done a little research on it and I think it is possible. I may get the Deer Hunter to help me build something to press the cheese.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 1:43 am

    They look good enough to me. I may have to try them this year. I think hanging them in the girls’ room is a mighty dandy idea.

    • Reply
      Bill prather
      June 8, 2021 at 7:13 am

      Never ate a meal at my grandmothers in Tate ga that we did not have leather britches, pickled beans and pickled beets. Time was you could not ride the back roads in Fannin county and not see leather britches hanging on strings under the porch eaves of every house

  • Reply
    February 21, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I saw the title of your post on my blog – but couldn’t remember what leather britches were. But of course now I do. I’ve never eaten them, never dried them, but perhaps I will this year. Did yours get dusty while they were hanging, waiting to be cooked? Just wondering because my house has dust….

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I haven’t had leather britches in years. What is good is slicing a potato up and cooking with the beans. I may try stinging some up this summer too. I did string up a lot of cayenne pepper and have it hanging around the house.
    Have a good weekend.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    February 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Tipper: I guess if you are going to make your britches out of leather you might as well it them. I agree with the girls, disgusting looking.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I read about these beans in the Foxfire books and then in your initial “bean” post. Neither of my grandmothers ever dried beans this way. They always canned them. I do think it is interesting and really it makes more sense, money wise, to dry the beans than to buy more jars.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I’m glad you liked the leather britches. I’ve never had them but I imagine they would be quite tasty. Thanks for sharing.
    Sorry I haven’t been to visit in a while. I’ve been a bit under the weather.
    Enjoy the weekend.

  • Reply
    Chef E
    February 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Gosh I never heard of this! Gave me an interesting topic for dinner tonight!
    You are so much fun Tipper, I love it!

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I would love to havve a big plate of those leather britches with a big piece of cornbread.
    My mom always cooked leather britches down to the grease, leaving no water on them.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I love seeing posts like these on blogs! Drying is a wonderful way to preserve food — excellent post!

  • Reply
    trisha too
    February 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Well, Chitter and Chatter are right-they do look disgusting, but I’ll believe you that they taste fine!
    I can see the benefits of drying foods, but am glad I don’t have to!

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    February 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I forgot about mine too, and you’ve just reminded me to give them a try. I’ll cook mine tomorrow and let you know how they come out. Now I’m curious.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I have never heard of this…but it makes so much sense! Thanks for introducing me to something new!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    February 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    I made eather britches years ago but didn’t much care for the taste. I’m going to try again — I don’t think I pre-soaked them — maybe that would have helped.
    On the other hand, my husband dried a lot of apples last fall and I’m loving eating those without any cooking at all!

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Tipper, I grew up with these beans. In southwest Virginia, we called them SHUCK BEANS… Mom would string the beans all over the house –and when she cooked them, they were absolutely delcious. I haven’t had any since I was a teen. OH–the great memories…

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    February 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    When I was growing up in Western North Carolina during the great depression , most every house in the neighborhood had beans hanging all over the porches that usually run the length of the house.These were their beans for cooking untill the new ones were ready in the garden next summer. Nothing better than a big plate of leather britches with a ham hock for dinner, or supper. And for desert a big piece of apple stack cake made from the dried apples from last summer.
    After the beans were dried they could be taken off the strings and stored somewhere where the rats couldn’t get to them.
    I believe our food back then was more healthy than what we buy today.
    (I’m getting hungry)
    Charlie Fletcher

  • Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Time and less money spent on more canning jars and ensuring you would have enough to eat to tide you over until your garden was producing again, drying definitely provided all that. My grandparents dried apples for dried apple pies and sauce with all the apples from the farm. It was cheaper and quicker than turning it all into canned applesauce, and provided variety during the long winter.

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