Dried Green Beans (Leather Britches)

I was recently reading a historical fiction book where the term “leather breeches” was mentioned in reference to drying green beans.  What was that??  I had to do some research, but found out that before home canning was an option for storing veggies, people would dehydrate green beans by stringing them up to dry.  When the beans were hanging on a string, they would shrivel up and have an appearance that resembled pairs of leather pants (breeches, britches…) hanging out on the clothesline.

I had to try this method of drying beans, but I had almost no guidelines to go by.  So, I dove in and strung up a whole mess of them in my living room.  It looked really neat!


Unfortunately, after the beans had been hanging for a couple of weeks, I started to notice some spoilage.  The beans started to rot a little right in the spots where the beans touched each other.  The reason this happened may be a combination of factors.  Here are my hunches:  Too much humidity in our house, not enough breeze, inconsistency in size of the beans, or the fact that I neither blanched nor flash froze them to tenderize them before drying.  To summarize, I wasted a whole mess of beans.  But I had fun and learned some things, so it wasn’t a total loss…..I guess.

I couldn’t quit right there — I had to at least try “modern” dehydration.  I recently purchased a dehydrator (Nesco GardenMaster), which I already love, so I had to try the beans in it.  I’m sorry, I don’t remember how long it took to dry them, but it was probably at least a full day.  (Follow your dehydrator instructions for proper temp and drying time.)  Anyway, when they were finally dry, they were hard and crispy-sounding.  I put them into a quart jar and vacuum sealed it.

I dried a total of 8 pounds of fresh green beans, and I fit almost all of them into the quart jar!!  Sweeeet!  This method of food storage will save a lot of space in the pantry.  To use the beans, rehydrate them in hot water or broth.  You can also put them directly into the crockpot with ingredients for soup or stew and let it cook all day.  I have put them in soup and they taste great!

As always, if you have tips or questions, please leave a comment or send an email!