Appalachian Food Gardening Preserving/Canning

Leather Britches

Shucky Beans

leather britches, leather britches beans noun
Green beans put on a thread or string (as at a bean stringing), dried in the pod by hanging on the porch or by the fireplace or by laying in trays or on scaffolds in the sun, and preserved for later boiling in water and winter consumption.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 292 Beans dried in the pod then boiled, “hull and all,” are called leather -breeches. 1939 Hall Coll. Hazel Creek NC They’d dry their beans, yes. They’d dry leather britches beans they called it. I dry mine in the sun. My grandmother dried hers on a string, hung them up in the porch or around the fireplace and dried ’em. I still dry those leather britches beans. That’s what they called ’em then. (Clara Crisp) 1957 Parris My Mts 212 It’s a flour sack filled with dried beans-in-the-hull which mountain folks call “leather-britches.” 1975 Jackson Unusual Words 155 Dried beans had numerous names-leather-britches, fodder beans, shuck beans, and dry hulls. 1977 Shields Cades Cove 36 These were known as “leather britches” beans, and when rehydrated, cooked, and properly seasoned, they were delicious. 1978 Montgomery White Pine Coll. III-2 Our beans we would dry them. They called them leather britches, and you’d string them on your string till you got something like a yard long, then you’d hang them in the smokehouse or somewhere when it was warm weather and they’d dry out. Then all you’d have to do in the winter if you took a notion for green beans why you could go get your leather britches and put them in the water and soak them overnight and you’d just have a  livelier spell of green beans than you ever had when they come out of the garden. 1982 Smokies Heritage 66 = long string beans strung together by needle and thread then hung upon the cabin or smokehouse wall to dry. 1986 Ogle Lucinda 50 So they would dry fruit and berries of all kinds also string green beans with a needle and thread and hang to dry. These were called fodder or leather britches.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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It’s been a few years since we’ve strung up any leather britches, but we’ve got them on our to do list for this summer. If you’ve never had leather britches they are very good, but have a completely different taste than fresh green beans or ones that have been canned.

Tipper

 

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Debbie
    August 13, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    I know this has nothing to do with beans, but there were many times I wished I had leather britches to protect my hind-end from the many spankings I got growing up. Lol

  • Reply
    Connie Steele
    July 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Hello, I am Connie from Kentucky.. I am planning on stringing green beans for winter (aka Leather Britches) this is to honor my dad that just passed away in Sept of 2017. He would always have leather britches as he would say when the first snow was a flying.. I love them.. so in honor of him I plan one doing this every summer to have them when the snow is flying.. My question is some have said to use a button and white thread to string them. I was wondering how you recommend them to be strung. Any input is appreciated.. Thanks again and its a blessing to learn so much about Appalachia.

  • Reply
    barbara lunsford davis
    August 7, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    I love these beans,but after mine dried they turned brown,not quite as pretty as before.Is this normal look of the dried beans?havent had them since I was small child,up in the mountains of ga.

  • Reply
    theresa
    July 31, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    I didn’t get a garden in this year and it makes me very sad. But we had rain up until the week before it was suddenly in the 90s… and no, we haven’t moved to Death Valley, but beginning to think it snuck up here in the night. Anyway, I’m drying cherries right now. We got them on lovely sale!!! I got one batch done a few days back and everyone liked them so much in cereal or for snacks I wasn’t sure there was going to be any left for baking come winter. 🙂 My cherry tree is an early one and we got half the cherries off it one day and the next, the birds who had nested in the eaves had eaten all the rest and pooped out the seeds in the driveway. Teach me to be lazy picking when something’s ripe. I pruned it back some so that it will hopefully put out more side branches. I have mushrooms, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, pears, and peaches blackberries, logan berries, and boysenberries dried for winter use. I’m trying to snatch up everything else that looks good at the farmer’s market that I can afford and throw it in my dehydrators. My daughter offered me her original seal-a-meal so that I could keep the dried food even better, so will pick that up when we go down to her place next. My aunt Ethel made leather britches beans…I never realized it was because they had been dried first. I just thought it was one of those “funny” regional names for the kind of beans they were. I just don’t think I’m going to have the time to do any canning this year… makes me sad, but I’m working a lot of hours at work and come home exhausted. We are leaving on vacation for two weeks, taking our camping trailer back to Wyoming to visit friends and relatives… and we didn’t’ realize the eclipse was going to be an issue when we planned this… so we will be on the road coming back on the 16th and 17th and hope to be home by the 18th. They are predicting huge traffic clog ups with over a million people coming to the state and our particular area to see the eclipse.

  • Reply
    Cate
    July 31, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Mama said that, growing up in SW VA & KY, she planted, hoed, weeded, picked & strung beans for leather britches until she never wanted to SEE let alone eat another bean! But that didn’t last. Planted, picked & snapped many a bean myself. But only Granny & Aunt Ida in KY actually fed us leather beitches. They really need to be dried by a fire or near a smoky place & be cooked w/ ham or sidemeat to have a really good flavor. I’m pretty much a flatlander now, but grew up listening to stories of family along both sides of Tug River.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    The attic of the house I was raised in had a large area, when mom had canned all the Green Beans she wanted to we would spend hours threading beans on string and hanging them in the attic, We would have bushels of beans strung and drying until you couldn’t find space to hang another row. They sure ate well when the snow flew and a pot of Leather-Britches had simmered all day with a chunk of middlin meat (city folks call this streaked meat) in them. I think smelling them cooking and the anticipation made them taste even better. Thanks for the great memories.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    July 31, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Tamela-most folks season leather britches with ham or fat back. I have used white half runners and greasy backs for making leather britches. Some folks use cornfield beans. To string the beans on, I use a heavier sewing thread. And I always go ahead and string the bean by pulling down both sides as you mentioned before threading it on the string to dry. As for the livelier spell LOL I don’t really know what he meant. Fresh greenbeans certainly taste livelier and fresher than beans that have been dried in my opinion! Thank you for the comment : )

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    July 31, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Granny dried some beans on cheese–cloth on roof of porch. I think maybe they were seed beans??
    They used to dry a lot of foods during the war , before my time.
    I say, thank the Lord in heaven for electricity, refrigerators and freezers.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    yes, I’m a “flatlander” even though the placed I was raised is called “the Valley” near the mouth of the Rio Grande river between Texas and Mexico. But I can trace my ancestry to W. Virginia and Tennessee. Even so, “leather britches” were new to me the first time I read them here and my one effort to cook up some I had “strung” was unsuccessful. How do you season them? and what does the reference “you’d just have a livelier spell of green beans than you ever had when they come out of the garden” – especially “a livelier spell” mean?
    We grew fields of “string beans” and “stringing” them by snapping off the ends and pulling off the “string” from the pod was necessary so folks wouldn’t choke on them when they ate them. they were long things and we always “snapped” them two or three additional times before putting them in the cook pot.
    What types of beans to y’all “string” on a real string?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 31, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Tipper–For anyone contemplating doing a “run” of leather britches, I’ll add one hint to the drying equation. If you can get the atop or beneath a tin roof it hastens the drying process. One especially god approach is to spread them atop a screen or piece of cloth and then lay it on tin.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 31, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Tipper,
    Me and Harold use to go with daddy down to his mama’s and daddy’s and they would always have something good a cookin’. Every time me and Harold would go around the table to fill up our plates, we’d snigger. Family was close back then and most all daddy’s brothers were there at the table. But it looked like a half dozen eggs sitting around, everybody was bald-headed except our daddy. We called Grandma, Mom, and she had the best Leather Britches you ever saw. She cooked them in a deep cast iron pot over the fireplace.
    When I came out of the house this morning, it was 57, my kind of weather. …Ken

  • Reply
    Brad Scott
    July 31, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Good ole beans in leather britches, shuckey beans, they’re good for the soul. What I wouldn’t give for a mess of em right now.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    July 31, 2017 at 9:12 am

    My family called them shuck beans. A few years ago, I shopped at a local greenhouse where my cousin worked and lived. The owners had given him as much ground as he wanted to raise a garden. He apparently ran out of jars and freezer space and decided to dry some green beans. When I walked in the store, the owner couldn’t wait to confirm my cousin hadn’t lost his mind. He asked me if I had ever eaten something my cousin was calling shuck beans that he had hung and dried on thread. I told him he didn’t know what he was missing.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    July 31, 2017 at 8:54 am

    I know my Aunt Norva made them and my Mom and Dad loved them but I can’t remember eating them. I have anted to try them for years now.
    Pam
    scrap-n-segranny.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Jackie
    July 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    We strung them when I was a kid. I think the major reason they were so good in mid to late Winter was we hadn’t had anything green in several weeks. Poke salad was so good in early Spring because it was the first greens we had. After other things began to come in poke salad didn’t seem fit to eat.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    July 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I like leather britches, though I haven’t had any in many years. Leather britches is also the name of an old fiddle tune I never learned to play well.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    July 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I like leather britches, though I haven’t had any in many years. Leather britches is also the name of an old fiddle tune I never learned to play well.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    July 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I like leather britches, though I haven’t had any in many years. Leather britches is also the name of an old fiddle tune I never learned to play well.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    July 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I like leather britches, though I haven’t had any in many years. Leather britches is also the name of an old fiddle tune I never learned to play well.

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    July 31, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Leather Britches is also a classic old time mountain fiddle tune!

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    July 31, 2017 at 8:32 am

    My Aunt Ethel and Aunt Avery hung their leather britches strings in the attic under a metal roof. I bet theirs dried faster than y’alls on the porch or by the fireplace.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 31, 2017 at 8:18 am

    My grandma dried apples, beans and pumpkin. I remember dried beans hanging on the porch. She was the last generation that dried produce. I’m guessing her drying was related to the timing of when home canning became practical. She was born in 1902 which makes me think there was a transition to home canning in glass jars along about 1880 or so. Before that, drying was a major way of storing food for winter.
    It has been a very long time since I had any leather britches. As you say, they taste completely different, especially if they were dried with wood heat and took on a smoky taste. (Yum) I can imagine that dry beans of various kinds were a food staple of long-distance travel such as the Oregon Trail, cattle drives, etc.
    By the way, I have used The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English as a guide to searching for good reading. I have found a few gems such as Emma Bell Miles and May Justus. It also gave me a hankering to go to the Knox County, Tn library to look at some of those transcribed church minutes in the McClung Collection to try and find ancestors in upper east Tn. (The Pressley name is from way back in American history by the way.)

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 31, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I remember mom making leather britches. She would hang them from the back porch. As much as I love green beans I did not like them prepared that way. Maybe I should try them again to see if I would like them now.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Tipper,
    And “foreigner or flat lander folks” wonder why a pot of green beans was kept cooking on the cast iron stove from morning until supper…ha
    My Dad from Mars Hill said he loved leather britches better than fresh green beans out of the garden. He said his mother canned but also strung beans and hung to dry behind her cast iron stove. After they were dry she put them in muslin cloth bags…My other grandmother would lay hers on screens and dry them upstairs in the sunny “hot room” as she sometimes called it…ha She also dried her apples there on screens. If you looked up toward the ceiling you could see her quilting frames with a quilt on it that she worked on in the fall/winter pulled to the ceiling out of the way by a pulling mechanism….always something to do…better to wear out than rust out!
    I tried it once, since I had heard of them all my life, stories passed down on the ways my ancestors put up food for winter….Nope, not for me. I soaked and cooked, etc. Maybe it was because I didn’t have home kilt hog meat to season them with or the smoky flavor wasn’t there…but they weren’t as good as some of my kin said they were! ha
    Thanks Tipper for the memory!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 31, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Those look like pole beans. Do any sort of green beans wirk? Beats blanching and freezing

  • Reply
    quinn
    July 31, 2017 at 7:46 am

    I’ll do this, next time I have more beans than I can eat. Interesting that they’d be “livelier” this way than fresh!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 31, 2017 at 7:11 am

    My grandmother always made leather britches. She would string and break them and spread them on a screen wire stretched on a frame. She put them out in the sun part of the time and brought them in on the porch at night , away from the wet morning dew or any rain that happened. She usually used beans with a full bean in the pod.
    Yes, they taste entirely different from green beans and they are very good.
    This was just another way of preserving food for the winter that did not require canning jars. Folks usually canned food in the summer for winter eating till they ran out of jars then went to drying and filling crocks full of pickled things for the winter to come.

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