when life gives you beans… can some dilly beans!

Well, life didn’t really give me my first boat load of beans without me asking for them. I planted an obscene amount of wax bean seeds, so what should I expect? We picked the first real load of beans yesterday and I canned them right away. We also got enough green and purple beans to fry some up for dinner last night.

Check out the first real bounty!

Over the past two years I have really got into canning. I enjoy being able to use most of what I grow (though I realized this weekend, if I had chickens, I would barely waste at all… and they would be fat and happy… if only!) Even a few bean plants will produce more than what a couple of people can handle in a day. Canning them is great way to store them for the winter. I decided to freeze some of the green and purple beans. And the beans that got too big, I chopped and froze for use in soups and stews all winter (hello Minestrone! and hello being broke!). My first year canning, I made pickles and dilly beans. Last year, I added on and made two types of relish, wild blackberry jam, applesauce, and I learned how to slice my pickles in fun ways (sandwich slices, crinkle cut, spears, etc.).  This year I hope to can much much more!

I have found that wax beans hold up the best when making dilly beans. They remain crunchy and still hold their bean-y deliciousness- the green beans will get a little soft over time (but they are still good!) I usually can a mixture of wax, green, and purple beans, but this year I plan to can a few jars of wax-only dillies.

Dilly Beans

fresh beans (one large handful will make about a pint)

1 bunch of fresh dill

Pickling salt (I use coarse kosher)

2 peeled whole garlic cloves (per jar)

Dill seeds

Celery seeds

Dried red chilis

Whole black peppercorns

Vinegar

Water

1. Measure a bean so it fits to the bottom of the neck. Clean and trim the remaining beans to be about the same length. If they are shorter, don’t worry- those are used to shove in any open cracks when stuffing the jar. Once clean, put the beans in a bowl of ice water and stick in the fridge until everything is prepped.

2. Heat up a water bath in a pot big enough to cover the jars 1/2 an inch above the lid. Start sterilizing the jars (boil for 10 minutes) and put fresh lids in a small pot of boiling water.

3. When the jars are about done, heat up a third pot with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. Bring to a boil. I plan to make a little more than I need (I’ll show you why later). Plan for 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water per pint jar. You will need excess. You will spill.

4. Pull out the jars, drain, and place on a kitchen towel. In each jar, drop 1 chili pepper, 2 cloves of garlic, 5-7 peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of pickling salt, a bunch of dill (about the leaves of 1 sprig), a pinch of dill seed, and 1/4 teaspoon celery seed. Note: The amount of dill is up the eater. If you are using the dill head (yellow flower) you usually only need 1 flower head and a sprinkling of dill seeds, but dill doesn’t always flower when you need it to!

5. Pull the beans out of the fridge and start stuffing into the jar trimmed side up. Squeeze as many as possible in there. This is where the little guys come in handy. Shove ’em in there!

6. Once all of the jars are packed, pour the boiling vinegar/water mixture over them. Leave 1/4 in headspace (up to the first thread on the rim). Take a knife and whack the side of the jar a few times to release any bubbles. Place a sterilized lid on each jar and a band.

7. Process for 15 minutes- from the time the water bath returns to a rolling boil. Once done, keep your ears open for the ‘PING’. It may take a few hours.

 *I have found that canning is an odd style of art. The actual canning of food in hopes of it turning out still tasting like food is really not that hard. The art of synchronizing every step is very tough to learn. It took me a while, and I still manage to splash boiling water all over my ice-cold fingers. But come January, it will be well worth it. Just keep at it. And enjoy an ice cold beer when you are done!

And if you happen to have a cuke on hand… Peel and slice 1 cucumber. Cut up 1/2 of an onion. Drizzle with some oil and sprinkle with pepper and dill seeds. Pour the vinegar mixture over it. Stick in a fridge until cold and voila- quick pickles!

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