Leather Britches Mother's Way

Happy New Year's everyone! I'm featuring a blog post from 2011. The story of how my mom made Leather Britches or Dried Green Beans. This recipe dates back to pioneer days. My mom learned from her mom,  Dora Warner Casto, who learned from her mom,  Lorene Casto Bailes. I hope you enjoy my essay.

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

Comments

  1. I've known about leather britches for years but haven't to my knowledge eaten any. Can you describe how the taste varied?

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  2. Rich is the first word that comes to mind. Far more flavorful than plain green beans. Think of how roasting veggies brings out the flavor. Hard to describe but worth trying if you ever have the opportunity.

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  3. What a lovely story. Leather britches are new to me, but I'm so glad I now know what they are. My mom canned or preserved or froze everything. While we didn't dry beans in that way, there was definitely the focus on not wasting one single thing, food or otherwise.

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  4. I made a version of leather britches beans to show with other pioneer items for my school visits. I go costumed as Grandma Sarah, a character from my pioneer books. Now I know the real way is to dry the beans first. I threaded them on a string while still green.

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