LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Well, actually, we took a mess down to Rufus and Phyllis Harrison in Laurel County last Saturday, so make that four counties.
Loretta had picked a lot of pods that were turning yellow thinking I might save them for seed because she thinks they’re not pretty enough to can but I don’t save anything besides heirloom seeds that you can’t find in the hardware or farm supply stores. The little handful of seed I planted in July cost 50 cents and I had seed left over. It would take two hours of time and trouble to shell them out, dry them, bag them up and find a place in the freezer to stash them. On the other hand, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to save Bufford Caudill and Black Satin Fall beans and Bertha McQueery’s goose bean seed.
So anyway, I decided to save a bucketful as shuckey beans which I grew up calling leather britches.
Shuckey beans are dried and later eaten with the pods intact. It is a lot of trouble because it usually takes 5 or 6 sunny days to get them thoroughly dried, but once you do, they’ll keep for years in the freezer or even in a cloth sack.
When I was growing up, shuckey beans were on the menu at least once a week from Thanksgiving until the first of June. We dried several bushels every year. Mom had very large sewing needles that were only used for the purpose of stringing up leather britches.
The needles were threaded with stout nylon twine that had been used to sew and seal the tops of hundred pound live stock feed sacks. The string would unravel to six or eight feet lengths with one smooth motion when you got it started.
We tied a big green bean to the end of the twin, then poked the needle through green bean pods and slid them down until the string was full, whereupon we tied another pod to that end and they were ready to dry. During the day, they were hung on clothes lines and at night they were brought into the house and hung behind the cook stove to dry.