Thursday, October 13, 2011

Traditional Leather Britches

Leather Britches Beans

This includes information on actually drying the beans, and then the traditional way to prepare them after they are dried.

For the initial dying:

At least 1 lb. fresh green beans
Needle and heavy thread

Snap or cut any tough ends off the beans.  Tie a knot in the end of the string and start threading.  Of course, you can dry as many beans as you have space for.  If you have much more than 1 lb. several strings will be needed.  Although the traditional way of drying them is to hang them in horizontally, if you have a lot, they can be dried vertically.  When hung they can take up to two months to dry, but they must be in a dry sunny place, or they will rot.  Of course, an easy modern way of drying them is in a food dehydrator.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I find the traditional method gives a plumper bean when re hydrated.

Old Appalachian photo of beans drying on string, along with apple rings on  tray.

For The Cooking:

1 string or more of beans or several hand fulls of beans if stored in jar
At least two quarts of water to soak
More water to cook
1/4 lb. salt pork, bacon, smoke ham, or turkey (optional)
2 tsp. salt
Ground pepper (optional)

1.  Soak the beans for at least 1 hour.  Actually this is one time that I do advocate soaking beans overnight.

2.  Drain, add more water to cover, add the smoked meat if you using, bring to boil.  Boil for two hours, season with salt and cook for another hour.  Season with pepper if using.  Serve with native breads.  Makes a great side dish and it's unusual too.  They taste like green beans, but a different enough to be good in a whole new way.

Cooked Leather Britches

Some people say they cook in soaking water.  I don't, what if you beans are dirty or dusty??  Some people cook in one change of water and then fully cook them in a second to remove any bitter taste, I haven't had a problem with this, but then again I like bitter, so maybe I don't notice.

These days you don't even have to make the dried ones yourself if you don't have the time.  Several companies sell dried green beans, they even sell them at Amazon.  Now most of these are not the traditional skinny leather britches beans, but they will do in a pinch.  

There are not a lot variations here.  But I will confess that when I have these left over, I dip them into melted lemon pepper butter.  It about as traditional as Naugahyde, but I love vegetable and seafood dipped in this butter.  Artichoke, cardoons (talk about bitter), cauliflower leaves, hearts of name it.  The intense flavor of these is great with lemon!

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