Saturday, August 11, 2012

Food: How to dry Shucky Beans

Some of you may be wondering; What on Earth is a Shucky Bean? Well, here in Eastern Kentucky they are a delicacy. But, if you aren't from Eastern, Kentucky (or most of the South) and think I'm talking nonsense... a Shucky Bean is simply a dried green bean. I think they are a delicacy not only because they are delicious, but because we generally only have Shucky Beans once or twice a year; at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas. 
A bag of Shucky Beans I am going to cook tonight. 
Have I personally ever cooked Shucky Beans? No. But I have sure ate my fair share. Has my Mom cooked Shucky Beans? You betcha, and they are heavenly. Take my word for it. With that being said, I am going attempt to cook my very first pot, tonight. Then, hopefully, I can share pictures of that process with you too. 

Though I've never attempted to cook the beans myself, I have helped break and dry them many, many times as a child. 

First, you will want to buy yourself a bushel of green beans. What is a bushel? A bushel is 4 pecks or in the more standard terms, 8 gallons. It is said here in the mountains that it takes a bushel of green beans to make 1 gallon of dried beans. 
I don't know the exact name of these particular beans. My SIL Melanie took this photo.
My Momma says she thinks that Half-Runners make the best Shucky Beans. Up next would be Big-John beans. I'm not 100% sure, but I'd say these names are mainly known on a local basis. She said any green bean will do. 

There are a couple ways to dry your beans. You can break and dry them like my photo at the top of this post or you can string them like the photo below. Either way works. 
Shucky Beans dried the old fashion way by stringing them up. I took this photo on our Museum of Appalachia field trip. 

Snap and dry method: 
First you will string and break the beans. In case you don't know how to string them, you just take the tip and snap it off, then pull the string down the length of the bean and toss it. Do both ends.
When you break (or snap as some people say) the bean there is no correct size. Just whatever length you want to snap them. My Mom snaps hers about 3/4 an inch in size, but as you can see, Melanie snaps hers longer. Either way works.
Do NOT wash your beans at this point. It will cause them to ruin. You will do that before you cook them.

Next you will want to spread a clean, thin, flat sheet out on the hood of your car, trampoline, picnic table, or even your back deck. Anywhere that is directly hit by the sun, but won't be bothered by kids or animals. Mom always put hers on the hood of the car while it sat in our driveway. Mainly because the metal gets very hot and it helps to dry the beans faster.
 
Depending on the weather, it should take about 3 days to dry the beans. Just dump them out on the sheet, make sure they are spread out really well and not stacked on top of each other, and leave them in the sun. You will want to bring them into the house at night.  Repeat the process until the beans are so dry that they rattle like a dry corn shucks when you move your fingers through them. The late Marie Day, once said that is why they are called "Shucky" beans. 

If you have no where to lay the beans to dry in the sun, you could use a dehydrator to dry your beans.

Once your beans are dry, you will want to put them into quart size freezer bags, and store them in the freezer. In the old days they put them into a flour sack and hung them in the attic.

Sting and Hang Method: 

Now, to string and hang dry your beans, you will want to snap the ends off and pull the strings off the bean. 
You will need a darning needle and embroidery floss. Years ago everyone pulled apart feed sacks and used the strings to hang them by. Regular sewing thread wouldn't be strong enough to hold them. 

Now just run your needle and thread through the beans. Some people go through one end. Others do it right through the middle. It doesn't matter really. You string can be as long as you would like; but most people do them six feet long if you are going through the middle. Then they tie the ends together to hang them like a giant bean necklace.

Once you have your beans strung up. You can hang them on your clothes line or porch in the direct sunlight. Back in the "old days" they left them hanging outside at night as well. It should take a few days for them to dry completely. Once again, depending on the weather. Once they are dry you can just leave them hanging on the string and move them into your pantry until you are ready to cook them or you can take them off the string and put them into quart jars and store them that way. Either way works.
I'm sharing this post at Dandelion House and The Morristribe!

2 comments:

kathy (day) Ross said...

I remeber shucky beans very well, My mother Deola Day use to dry them in the back window of the car . we drove around with beans drying in the back window not anly beans but that is where she dried the apples also. I now realize what a wonderful idea this was bugs and weather stay away and they dry really fast of course as a teenager I did not see the sense in this .

Alana Jo said...

Yes, I've seen people do that as well.