Traditionally, leather britches are green beans that have been snapped, sown into a string using a needle and thread and hung to dry for a few months until they look like leather pants hanging from a clothesline. As the name suggests, leather britches have a leathery texture and pull at the bite, which differs from the tender texture one might expect from fresh green beans. A good comparison is grilled filet mignon versus hanger steak; both have deliciously different textures and flavors.
I was able to put a spin on the intriguing Appalachian method with a modern upgrade: my dehydrator. Depending on the dehydrator, the beans take between eight and 12 hours to dry completely. Two pounds of fresh beans turn into two ounces of dried beans, making it a highly efficient way to preserve the bulk of a garden’s harvest. Using leather britches is a lot simpler than the process of preserving them. An overnight soak rehydrates the beans for best use in stews, soups and braising recipes. When I created this recipe, I found the beans offer a pleasant richness, umami and overall deeper flavor – a delightful ending to my travel through culinary history.
Leather Britches & Shiitake Stew
Serves | 6 to 8 |
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, small dice
- 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 oz leather britches (2 lbs dehydrated green beans), soaked overnight, drained and trimmed
- 1 14.5-oz can petite dice tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
| Preparation | Heat oil in a Dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper; sauté until lightly caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, vegetable broth and thyme; stir until well combined. Increase heat to medium high and bring liquid to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low; continue to simmer, partially covered, 2 hours. Add parsley before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.