Learning how to cook leather britches is just as important as knowing how to preserve leather britches. Cooking this old-fashioned preservation method for green beans is different than fresh or dried beans, but can be just as delicious once cooked if done correctly.
My grandmother was born in 1914, and making “leather britches” was the way they preserved their beans, especially when there weren't enough jars for all the canning that needed to be done.
She raised the first of her children during the Great Depression (even afterwards funds were still tight at times), and money wasn't always there for buying more jars when they ran out, so stringing their beans and making what they referred to as leather britches was an easy way to preserve their beans for long-term storage without any additional supplies (other than some string).
Back in the day my grandparents would string their beans and use the heat from around the woodstove to help dry the beans, which they would then hang as garlands up in the attic.
How to Prepare Leather Britches
Preparing leather britches isn't the same as cooking fresh green beans. There is a two-step process in order to rehydrate them before cooking.
Wash/Soak the Beans
Since these beans have been hanging out for months (or sometimes even longer), they'll definitely need to be cleaned as well as have a good long soak to rehydrate before cooking.
To do this, simply snip the knot holding the beans in place then slide them off the string into a heat-proof bowl.
Add just boiling water to cover the beans by at least a few inches.
Let them soak for two hours until the beans soften and become pliable.
Strain the beans and give them a good rinse with cool water to wash away any remaining dust.
Cook the Beans
Traditionally, my grandmother would place a pot on top of her woodstove, cover the beans with water and just let them simmer for 3-6 hours, or until soft and cooked through, but because I haven't fired up my woodstove yet, and I'm more of a modern Pioneer kinda gal, I'm using my pressure cooker (aka the Instant Pot)!
To cook the beans add your beans into the pot of your pressure cooker and cover them with water.
You can add in a piece of bacon, chopped into pieces for flavor (traditionally, my grandmother would add in a piece of salt pork into the pot, but because I'm not curing my own meat, bacon will fill in here!). When salt pork was used, there wasn't any need to add additional salt.
A note on bacon, if you missed my podcast on my recap of raising American Guinea Hogs and discussing if they were worth it, you'll want to go take a listen because those pigs gave us the most bacon of any pigs we've ever raised before!
Since leather britches are closer in nature to a dried bean, you'll need to cook them much longer than fresh beans. Cook them on high pressure for 20 minutes, then do a 15-minute natural release of the pressure, followed by a manual release of any remaining pressure in the pot.
Ladle out your beans into a bowl, taste, and add salt as needed.
More Preservation Recipes and Resources
- How to Can Green Beans (Easy Raw Pack Method)
- How to Grow (and When to Pick) Pole Beans
- Green Bean Casserole – From Scratch
- The Science of Home Food Preservation
- How to Preserve Meat, Eggs & Dairy
- A Complete Guide to Home Food Preservation (What to do When You Can’t Find Canning Supplies)
- Home Food Preservation- Preserving Plan for a Year’s Worth of Food
- 9 Ways to Preserve Food at Home
- How to Pick the Best Preserving Methods
- Tips for Home Food Preservation – Seasonal Preserving Each Month
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Leather Britches Green Bean Recipe
- Pressure Cooker
- 4 cups leather britches
- 6 cups hot water
- 1 slice bacon or salt pork
- 1 teaspoon sea salt optional
- 1 clove garlic minced (or more to taste), optional
- Remove leather britches beans from string into a heat-proof stainless steel bowl.
- Cover beans with hot water (enough to cover by a couple inches) and let soak for 2 hours, or until beans are soft and pliable.
- Rinse beans well under running water.
- Place beans into the insert pot of your pressure cooker and add water (enough to cover beans by 2 inches).
- Chop bacon and mince garlic and add to the pot along with sea salt.
- Set pressure cooker to high and cook for 20 minutes on high pressure, natural release for 15 minutes, followed by a manual release of any remaining pressure.
- Remove beans to a bowl, taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!
- Check out this post to learn how to preserve green beans by making leather britches.
- Can adjust recipe up or down depending on how many leather britches you're preparing.