Leather Breeches

Serves 6

  • 1 pound tender yellow or green wax beans
  • 2 feet sewing twine
  • 1 medium-sized upholstery needle
  • ½ sweet onion, julienned
  • ¼ pound cured ham, diced
  • 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)

Rinse beans under cool water and pat them dry. Take one end of the threaded needle and puncture the center of a bean. Wrap around and re-insert the needle though the bean. Carefully finish stringing all the beans, much like you’re making popcorn strings at Christmas time. Once you’ve strung all the beans, hang them near a source of low heat and continuous air flow. If you would prefer to hang them outside on a porch, place them away from too much direct sunlight so you don’t risk an uneven cure. I tend to hang them between a stove and the kitchen exhaust. Wait for three weeks while those lovely green or yellow beans turn into slightly darker, significantly more shriveled creatures. When the beans are completely dried out (if you want you can weigh them in the beginning and then just find 25–30% of their weight to get your end goal), transfer to an airtight container for storage. These beans will hold for up to 18 months.

To cook, soak beans in a simple 1% saltwater solution for 15 minutes, then drain. In a medium pot, combine onion, ham, bacon fat, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onions turn translucent. Add beans, salt, and half of the water. Bring to a light simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add the remainder of the water. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 1 hour. Taste for salt (add the 1 teaspoon of salt to taste) and texture (smoothness with a slight toothsomeness from the husks). Add the hot sauce and let the beans rest for 10 minutes before eating. These beans go well with a hunk of hot water cornbread and a little green onion.