There was a time when all back porches in the south bore the same decor during the late summer months, hanging strings of green beans in various stages of drying. This method of drying green beans from the garden is called making leather britches. As the garden green beans dry, they take on a leathery look and texture, and the southern back porch is where britches (pants) were hung up to dry on wash day. While I don’t know the exact reasoning behind drying green beans being referred to as leather britches, the origin of the name has to do with the way the green beans look while hanging on the back porch.
Preserving garden green beans by making leather britches is one of the easiest methods of garden vegetable preservation and the finished product taste is absolutely delicious.
How To Make Leather Britches
Items needed: Green beans-any amount from a mess (meal sized portion) to bushels. Large sewing needle and heavy cotton sewing thread. White cotton quilting thread, doubled, works perfect.
To make leather britches, you need to harvest your garden green beans before they get too full, while they are still young and the beans inside are not fully mature. This drying process will work for any variety of green bean that you raise in the garden. The variety most often used in here in the south are white half runner green beans or pole beans.
Wash and dry the green beans, snap off the tips and string as you normally would. Don’t break the green beans up, leave them whole.
Cut about a six foot length of the cotton sewing thread, thread your sewing needle, pulling the loose ends evenly together and tying an extra large knot in the end of the thread. This will give you about a three foot string to work with, but you can make it longer or shorter to meet your needs.
Put the needle through the center of the green bean and pull all the way to the end of the thread, continue adding green beans until the thread is full. Do not allow the beans to touch as you thread them on the string, the air must circulate between the green beans for proper drying. Some people tie a knot in the string between each bean to make sure they don’t slip and touch while the leather britches are forming.
Hang each strand of green beans on a separate nail or hang a clothes line and place each string of green beans on the line, again making sure the leather britches never touch each other.
A back, screened in porch is the best place to hang the strands of leather britches, but any sunny semi-sheltered outdoor location will work, so will an indoor location. Check your leather britches every few for any signs of mold, removing and discarding any green bean that becomes soft or moldy during the drying process.
Turning green beans into leather britches is about a two month long process. When the green beans are fully dry and have turned light brown in color, unstring them and store in an air tight container on the shelf until you are ready to cook them.