Down on the Farm—Grandma’s Shucky Beans
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my grandparents down on their farm.
Mom and Dad would pack us up in the car after Dad got home from work and we’d drive down into the hills of Kentucky for the weekend.
The house would always be dark when we arrived. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have a phone, so they were never expecting us on our weekend trips. It was probably only nine or ten p.m. when we arrived, but my grandparents were farmers who went to bed with the chickens the minute it got dark outside.
The moment Daddy pounded on the door, my grandparents awoke and the lights came on. After hugs and kisses, we were hustled into the kitchen for hand pies, cornbread, leftover shucky beans, and meat. It never failed to amaze me how much food Grandma had on hand, especially since it was only her and Grandpa there. The hand pies were half-moon pastries made from dried apples Grandma had preserved. The meat varied, depending on whether she’d killed a chicken or they had purchased beef from someone. The shucky beans were the item my mouth always watered for—and still does today. It’s been years since I’ve eaten them, but I remember the salty, silky texture of the once-dried bean.
You say you don’t know what shucky beans are?
Shucky beans are green beans that have been dried in the shell. Shucky beans were always on the table at Grandma’s house. In fact, I don’t remember ever eating any other kind of green bean when we visited her.
Mom and Grandma always used white half-runner beans, although I do remember Mom using other green beans when she couldn’t get half-runners. Every summer we would visit Grandma and help her preserve the veggies from her garden. Getting the shucky beans ready was something I could do as a child, because Grandma preserved her beans the old-fashioned way. She strung them on cotton thread and hung them on the back porches until they dried.
The process was time consuming, but I don’t remember minding it at all. While the black-eyed Susans nodded in the breeze at the front of the yard, I strung my pan of beans sitting on the white porch swing, listening to the chains creaking softly above me and Mom and Grandma talk. There was something satisfying about watching the green column of beans grow on the thread, knowing I was going to enjoy the taste of them in the fall and winter. Grandma always shared some of the crop with us.
Below are the quick instructions for making Shucky Beans as given to me by my mother. My additional clarification comments are in parenthesis. Notice there are no amounts given for beans: Grandma and Mom just strung them until they were all picked from the garden. From my research I’ve discovered a bushel of fresh beans makes about 1 gallon of Shucky Beans.
Grandma and Mom’s Shucky Bean Recipe
Pick white, half-runner beans when they have a bean in them. Do not wash beans. Break ends and remove the string from the beans. Using a sturdy needle and white cotton string, knotted on one end, string the beans. (Pierce the bean pod and not the bean with the needle.) When the string is almost full, tie the ends and place in a warm place to dry: an attic, porch, or in the direct sun.
(Depending on how you plan to dry them, either tie the ends together to make a circle, or make a loop in one end, so they can be hung on a nail. You could also just knot the other end and drape over a clothes line. I know Grandma hung hers on the back porches, but I’ve read about other cooks drying their beans on sheets laid on patio tables, car hoods, and even spread in the back window of a vehicle. If you don’t want to do this the old fashioned way, you can use a food dehydrator.)
Once the beans have dried, they can be stored in the freezer in plastic freezer bags. Just be sure they are really dry before you store them. (When you can run your fingers through a batch and hear a rattling sound, reminiscent of the sound dried corn shucks make, beans should be dry enough to store.)
To Cook: Place the beans, strings and all, in a pot and boil for 30 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the beans. Take them off the strings and place in a clean pot with more water and seasonings. (A cottage ham or slab of bacon works well as seasoning). Cook until tender. (About 2-2 ½ more hours.)
Some recipes call for the beans to be washed before stringing. Grandma didn’t use pesticides, so she didn’t have to worry about chemicals. If you wash the beans before stringing, make sure they are hung where the air can reach all sides to prevent spoilage. Other recipes also suggest removing the beans from the string before boiling. I’m not sure which method works best, since I can’t recall what I did the one time I cooked the beans.
Have you ever eaten Shucky Beans? How did you like them?
Thank you so much for sharing your story and recipe with us, Catherine. I have never had shucky beans (my family is originally from Ohio and California and I doubt they know what shucky beans are ha!), but my curiosity is piqued and I can’t wait to try this!
Although Catherine Castle is a city girl, her roots are in the country, thanks to Grandma, Grandpa and her summers spent on the farm.
She’s also the author of the multi-award-winning inspirational suspense romance, The Nun and the Narc, and the sweet romantic comedy, with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she quilts and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place is in her garden, another thing she picked up from Grandma. She’s a passionate gardener who won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.
Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist, and the winner of the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award and the 2014 RONE Award. Both of her books are available on Amazon.
The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.
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