Friday, August 10, 2012

Dilly Beans

I have been wanting to make dilled string beans for a long time. Yesterday I shopped at the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market and bought 5 lbs of nice green and yellow snap beans from my friends at Stony Hill farm, and a bunch of organic dill leaves from the organic farm stand.
Why are most of the pickles sold in stores and at the farmers markets, made from cucumbers? Sure, pickled beets are popular, but dilly bean pickles are rarely seen on a grocery shelf. I asked google, are pickles a healthy food?
You might be interested in what "the nutrition diva" had to say about it. When a pickle counts as a serving of vegetables, that's tops with me! "The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard has a big chapter on a variety of pickled vegetables.
I researched my "library" of canning books and found each one had a recipe for  Dilled Green Beans. All of them called for white vinegar, salt, dill, garlic and hot pepper. Some pre-cooked the beans, other recipes said to pack raw beans into the jars. I tried a batch each way. In the Better Homes and Gardens, there was an eyecatching photo of Lemon-Bay pickled beans. I made those also, with the yellow beans (to match the lemon). Then I had four cups of leftover pickle solution, so I cut up a huge onion and put that into a pickle.
Dilly Beans, Lemon Bay Beans, raw pack Dilly Beans, Pickled Onion Rings
In all, I worked through the afternoon, washing, trimming, stirring and canning, and have 7 lovely pints of pickled beans and 2 pints pickled onion rings as my reward.
I learned a rule of thumb: one pound of green beans, trimmed into 4 inch pieces, will fill just 2 pints, packed tightly. 
Look for beans at the farm stand or pick-your-own farm, and buy an extra pound. Try this easy recipe, using a few common ingredients, and make two jars. It won't take much time, and you'll have a lovely product that you will not want to open because they look so nice! I mean - you will be so proud of them, you'll save them for a special occasion. Dilly Beans, from "Pickles and Relishes" by Andrea Chesman, page 90. I cut the recipe in half.
Ingredients: 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed into 4 inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic
2 heads of dill (seed), or 4 stems of fresh dill leaves, or 2 tsp dill seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1-2 small dried red chili peppers
1-1/4 cup  water
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt ( I don't want all that salt, I used one tablespoon)
1. Wash 2 wide mouth pint jars and heat them in a water bath canner put on medium heat. 
2. In a sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar and salt; stir to dissolve, then heat to boiling.
3. Remove the hot jars from the canner, and place them on their sides on a towel. 
Fill the jars laying on their sides, garlic, dill leaves, beans, then the vinegar. 
4. Into each jar, put a clove of garlic, a chili pepper and the dill. 
5. Pack the beans into the jars, so they are "standing up"in the jar. this is easier to do with the jar lying on its side, and using a little plastic fork to move the beans into place. 
6. Stand up the jars and pour the boiling vinegar into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace and covering the beans with the liquid.
7. Wipe the rims clean and top with the lid and then the ring. Tighten the ring firmly but not terribly tight.
8. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes for pints, timing when the water returns to a boil.
9. Remove jars and let them cool, undisturbed. The lids should snap down.
10. If you do not yet have a water bath canner, you can use a large deep stock pot, with a little rack made of extra canning rings or a towel, filled with enough water to cover the tops of the jars.

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