Leather Britches Beans
Leather Britches Beans or 'shucky beans' refers to an antique
technique of preserving beans that was closely associated with the
American South and particularly the Appalachian region. Prior to the
widespread use of freezing or canning beans were preserved by
stringing them on a length of thin twine and then air-drying them over
several weeks. Beans were picked at a stage when the seeds were well
developed but the outer hull remained green. Leather Britches beans
were re-hydrated and cooked very slowly in an excess of water
containing a wedge of bacon or ham.
The beans used to make Leather Britches were quite specialized and
have been nearly lost from circulation. Traditionally pole-type beans
were used and the favored varieties retained a tender hull at
maturity. The hulls of today's beans all become very tough as the
bean matures. Some gardeners will dry a commercial string bean as a
substitute for 'old time' Leather Britches beans but they risk
criticism from historians, Southern chefs and anyone who has tasted
the real thing.
By general acclaim the best heirloom bean varieties to make Leather
Britches include the Barnes Mountain Cornfield Bean, Pink Tip Greasy
Bean, Tobacco Worm Bean and the NT Half Runner Bean. None of these
bean varieties are in commercial circulation but several hundred
heirloom beans once common in the American South have been saved from
extinction by a single collector, Bill Best. He established the
Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, Kentucky which now
has more than 400 varieties of beans in its collection.
These Leather Britches Beans were made from Barnes Mountain Cornfield
Beans that were organically grown on my farm in Northwest Iowa.
Seed source: Mr. Bill Best