Thursday, September 23, 2010

Leather Britches

I was watching the farm report the other morning, and heard a recipe that sounded simple and tasty, Leather Britches. Utilizing dried green beans and some bacon or salt pork, and water, you have a hearty, fall or winter soup. Making leather britches is a traditional southern method of preserving fresh garden green beans by stringing them to dry. Some versions call for blanching the beans first to preserve color and stop enzyme development. We suggest you trim and string the beans [prior to drying.

Pierce the beans or peas about one-third of the way from one end with a needle, then string them on clean heavy thread. Steam-blanch the beans or peas, string and all, for about 6 minutes, or until pliable and bright green in color. Blot dry with a clean dish towel.

Hang to dry in a warm, well-ventilated place. After drying, store them by hanging them under the eaves of the house, from the attic rafter, on a porch, or in your kitchen, if conditions permit.

PREPARATION TIP: If using green beans, do not dry in direct sunlight as they will lose all color. Vegetables need blanching before drying to set the color. Blanching hastens drying by softening the tissues, checking the ripening process, as well as destroying enzymes to prevent undesirable changes in texture, flavor, and color during drying or storage. Steam blanching is one of the best methods because blanching in boiling water adds more liquid to the food initially, thereby making the drying process longer. Steam-blanched vegetables will hold up to taste tests much better as well.

The Soup

  1. 1/2 lb. dried beans, cut in 1" diagonal strips
  2. 1/2 gal. water
  3. 1/4 lb. bacon pieces (4-5 slices), ham bone w/ some meat, or chopped salt pork
  4. (optional) 1 lb. potatoes
  5. salt and pepper to taste

  • Place beans in kettle and soak for at least 2 hours
  • Bring beans with water to low simmer and add meat
  • cook about 3 hrs (be careful that the water doesn't cook away, add more as necessary), until tender
  • add optional potatoes (if using) the last 30-45 minutes
  • adjust seasonings
  • serve with cornbread

Note; My mother always thickened hers with a slurry of water and flour, and served with cider vinegar at the table to add as desired.

Makes 8-12 servings

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