Air drying green beans is a way of preserving this vegetable that dates back to American pioneer times. It was especially popular in the southern United States where dried green beans were nicknamed "leather britches." This inexpensive and effortless technique is worth trying because once dried, the beans keep indefinitely and are a useful pantry staple to have on hand. The flavor of the rehydrated, cooked green beans is quite good. If you dry them over a fire or wood stove, they have wonderfully complex flavors compared to canned or frozen beans.
This easy recipe requires a quick blanching process and some skill for sewing (you're piercing the beans one at a time to hang from a thread). Although blanching the green beans before drying them is not essential, it does help preserve the color better. If they are not blanched, the beans tend to darken as they dry. Yellow wax beans can also be preserved using this method.
- 3 pounds green beans
- Bowl of ice water
- Large embroidery needle
- Kitchen string or unwaxed, unflavored dental floss
Blanch the Green Beans
Gather the ingredients
Wash the green beans. Snap off the stem ends and compost or discard.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and leave them in the boiling water for 3 minutes.
Drain them in a colander and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water to prevent them from cooking further. Leave them in the cold water for 3 minutes, then drain again.
Thread the Green Beans
Thread a large needle such as an embroidery needle with kitchen string or unwaxed, unflavored dental floss.
Thread each green bean by piercing it with the needle about one inch down from either end of the bean. To secure the first bean, draw the string through, leaving a tail end of about 2 inches. Use that tail end to tie a knot in the string.
Continue threading the green beans onto the string, leaving a 1/2 inch of space between them so that air can reach all surfaces of each bean. When you get near the end of the string, remove the needle and tie a knot around the last green bean.
Hang the strung green beans in a dry place with good air circulation on all sides. When they are completely dry, they will have shrunk considerably and will have a texture somewhere between leathery and brittle. This will take about 1 week, but some cooks prefer the beans' texture after 3 to 4 weeks.
Transfer the dried green beans to clean dry jars or food storage containers and keep in a cool, dark, and dry cabinet.
- When green beans are in season at the market or if you have a bounty from your garden, use this method to preserve them rather than canning or freezing. You'll save space in your freezer and you won't need the pressure canner that's required to can a low-acid vegetable.
Before using your leather britches remember to:
- Rinse them off in cool water.
- Pour hot water over them and let them soak until they soften.
- Drain the rehydrated green beans in a colander.
- Simmer them in water or soup stock until they are tender.