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Mother's Leather Britches...

My mother gardened all her life. It was one of her great loves, next to family, God, and country.

Because she grew up during the Depression, she learned to use every last item from her garden for canning, preserving, drying or pickling.

Every year at the end of the green bean season she made leather britches, dried beans that would keep for the winter.

These were the last beans hanging on the vines. The beans inside had grown to full size with outsides a bit withered. They were beyond the stage to can or preserve, or even to pickle.

Although her fried pickled green beans and corn bread were the best in the world. (Well, next to her biscuits and fried apples.)

Mother started the drying process with clean beans. She would spread a clean white sheet on a table in the wash room and spread the beans out on that, giving them space to dry. Sometime she would carry the sheet outside and put them on a table in the sun to further the process.

The next step involved needle and thread and when I was small and saw the needle and thread I wondered if she really was going to make a pair of leather britches out of the beans.

Using a large needle that was threaded with a knot in the end of the thread, she began to thread the dried beans onto the string. She often made five or six strings of beans, several feet long.

She would hang them on the clothesline with clothespins on a sunny day to speed up the drying. Then, she would hurriedly bring them inside if it looked like rain.

Eventually they would hang from the wash room ceiling out of the way and later, completely dried, they would be wrapped in a clean sheet and go into a spot in the closet, where they would wait to be used.

The end result was dry leathery looking beans.

To cook them she would fry a few slices of bacon, then add the beans, water and some salt and pepper.
‘Ole, leather britches.

Leather britches have the most distinct delicious flavor that only beans dried in that way can have.

It’s a taste I have not had since my mother passed away.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever had leather britches?
Is there any other preservation of food that a parent did that you’d like to share? Comments welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Blessings, Barb


  1. Barb, I love this post!!! Brings back so many memories of "the old days" when people never wasted a thing.

  2. I have never tried them, although they sound interesting. I wish I had learned gardening, canning, and the such. I do think I am gonna try (a first & at 48!) to have a little garden... We will see!

  3. I think a garden is wonderful at any age, Janis. And remember you are only as old as you feel in your head. Sometimes i feel 10. Today I feel my age.
    Thanks for reading both of you. Glad you liked.

  4. Oh I remember the Leather Britches. I used to help string them for my mom. They are the best eating around. I love gardening, it's so good to have fresh vegetables coming in.

    There's so many things People did back then to preserve food for the winter. Daddy always dug a big hole and put the potatoes and cabbage in it. When we needed some he would go and dig them out. What memories... Glad you posted this, I enjoyed it so much. Thanks, Susie

  5. I loved this story about your mother. So glad you found me through a comment on someone's blog. I think we have similar memories.

    My mother, born 1905, and died in 2003 at age 97. She didn't do beans. But she pickled cucumbers, and bottled peaches (I did the latter once). And we had clotheslines outside for summer, and ones in the basement for winter. I have lots of clothesline memories!

    She lived through the depression. She married in 1939 at age 33. I wish I had gotten more stories, but I still have a lot that she wrote in remembrance book, and I have many ancestral stories that were handed down to her and her siblings.

    BTW, I love the old-fashioned, beautiful wedding dress on your sidebar. I marvel at how bloggers get original stuff on their blogs. Maybe I'll figure it out someday.

    And someday I hope to be reading your published novel. I'd love to read some of your stories. Maybe post them on a page? I'm very excited about my memoir. Just have to get the galleys read. But this part is lots of fun--and meeting new bloggers.

  6. We always had a garden growing up. My Mom and Grandma would preserve food, although I didn't learn how to can until I moved away from home and my Mother-in-Law taught me. I haven't canned in a few years, but I'm thinking about it for this summer and fall. I love to look at all the jars of "jewels" on the shelf. They always looked so pretty and the best part was they tasted just wonderful! Thanks for the walk down memory lane with you!

  7. Those leather britches sound so delicious, especially now, so close to dinnertime! I have a garden, which is mostly many Jet Star Tomato plants, they are soooo good. I throw in a couple eggplant, peppers and early lettuce too. But those tomatoes ... They make the summer perfect, fresh from the vine to the plate, sliced with a little mayo and salt on them ... perfection :)

  8. We used to make them. We used to string apples like that too -- apple slices -- and let them dry behind the cookstove.

  9. Wonderful post.
    I, too, had the advantage of Depression Era parents and know many of the old ways.
    We still practice many, especially, waste not, want not.

  10. What a wonderful story! I haven't had leather britches, or fried pickled beans for that matter. I remember rhubarb from childhood - the first thing to come up in our North Idaho spring. We'd pick the stalks, sneak sugar from the kitchen, and dip the ends and eat until our mouths couldn't take it any more.

    I love your new background.

  11. Never did have them, nor hear of them. But it makes for an interesting read!


  12. Having an Appalachian Grandmother (my Dad's mother), I'm very familiar with dried green beans (but didn't know they were called leather britches). She taught my mother how to dry them and I would help with the stringing. We hung them in our attic. It has been ages since I've had them, but I remember them being really good.

  13. My cousin's wife, Brenda Smith, in WV tells me that after hers are dried she freezes them. That struck a chord with me and now I remember that mother also froze them in quart bags to keep them longer.
    I'm surprised I remembered as much about the process as I did.
    Thanks to all who commented on this. It's been funr eading your replies.

  14. They sound delicious, a lot of work, but well worth it in the end. Perhaps someday I'll try it with my own beans.

  15. I've never made leather britches, but I'm sure Grandma did. They did just about everything back then...making apple butter out in the yard, canned sausage balls. They canned and made jelly out of just about everything you could back then. I remember hog butchering days and killing the chicken for Sunday dinner. I don't think I would like pickled beans, about the only thing I like pickled are beets and pickled cucumbers.

  16. This is the first time I've heard about them, but they sound delicious.

  17. I have never had leather britches, but my grandmother too never wasted a morsel. Even if there were only 3 peas leftover, they were saved and used in something. She was the most delighful cook, nothing I ever tasted of hers was anything less than delicious. I do so miss her cooking.

  18. Let's hear it for moms and grandma's who were great cooks.


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