Monday, April 18
Have You Ever Sopped?
Shuckey beans is, and always has been, a delicacy in my book. They are special beans, made with lots of tender loving care, to make sure when they are put on the table, you know you are going to have a feast.
Shuckey beans were a part of my life since I can remember. I went to the garden with the folks, watch them plant, harvest, etc. and then I put my grubby little hands in the basket and tried to follow what I saw the older folks do, stringing the beans to make sure no strings were left. Then I watched as they carefully took a needle and very fine thread and took a bean, & so gracefully put the needle through the bean, pulled the thread through and followed suit until they had a string that was full. They would then place that string on a snow white sheet they had been laid down and began to fill another string of beans. While they were doing this they would talk (and gossip I learned to call it in later years) and Granny never strung a bean that I remember without that old cob pipe (bileing, pronounced bile-ing, which meant boiling). There was lots of laughter when they were making shuckey beans. Then they would hang the many strings of beans in a dry place, away from bugs, etc. until they became dry and looked ready to be put away for cooking when wanted. I can remember strings and strings of beans hanging behind our old cook stove in the kitchen. That old cook stove was a jewel. It not only cooked delicious tasty food but kept us very warm in the cold, snowy winters.
You see, preparing these tasty morsels when gardens were in - prepared us for good food during the cold winter months, and believe you me, there is nothing no better than a dish of piping hot shuckey beans, a big piece of onion, cornbread, and maybe a cold glass of buttermilk while the weather outside was acting up. That might have been, but the climate inside was favorable as we were engrossed in such a good meal. When the old folks died off I soon learned the importance of the heavenly taste of shuckey beans. I was older and had a family of my own, but thank God I had learned the art of preparing shuckey beans.
As I type this, I can open my pantry door and on a top shelf are glad bags full of shuckey beans just ready to be cooked. Now, we have them twice a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then what is left I freeze them and eat on them until they are gone. My daughters make sure we have shuckey beans. They go to Farmer's Market or they sometimes find good green beans back home. They get together with their husbands and string the beans, and here is where we deviate from what I was taught to do. We snap our green beans, lay them on a clean white sheet on a table down here in our hot, hot sun and they are dried within two days, some in one day. Then they take them and put them in a clean, white, pillow case for storing til we want a "mess". Now, I have shortened it to putting them into zip-lock bags, each containing a "mess" to be prepared.
My daughter had been buying portions of shuckey beans for our Thanksgiving Table each year from several old farmers that still "farmed" and had them for sale, $12.00 a little bag, was the cost of the last ones purchased, and then we decided to try our hand at shucking beans. Turned out good and we are still at it. What I have in the pantry will last until the newer ones are ready to be "sacked" up and put away. I share bags now and again with friends, a lot had never heard of shuckey beans and just wanted to try them. I sent my good friend, Zoe Draughn, a bag not too long ago and she prepared them and told me they were delicious.
And, by the way, the "juice" that fills the pot from cooking these shuckey beans makes a good "sopping" sauce. Have you ever sopped? If not, you have lost out, honestly.
When I came to South Carolina I found no one who knew what a shuckey bean was until one day I was talking about them and one old man said "I think I know what you are talking about, we call them "leather britches" and that is what I learned they are called down this way.