Filed under: Canvolution
The canning bug bit me hard a few years ago and now all of my friends and family can pretty much count on jam or pickles if I’m giving gifts. When I was growing up, my mom canned cherries, tomatoes, and salsa, so I guess you could say canning is in my genes. She probably canned other things, but those are the three that stand out in my memory, perhaps in part because that’s what I found buried in their pantry this summer when I was helping clean it out (as an aside, canned goods that are 10 to 15 years old are pretty scary). My mom stopped canning at some point, but happily, she didn’t get rid of any of her jars, so I came home with a trunk full of jars after visiting them in August. Some how her terrifying yellow pressure cooker also ended up at my house, but it sits – unused – in my basement, tormenting me every time I go into the laundry room. I have a (perhaps irrational) fear of pressure cookers, which brings me back to the beans.
Because I am terrified of the pressure cooker and green beans are a low-acid food, my only option for putting up beans is to pickle them. In my opinion, this is really the only way canned green beans are any good anyway. The first time I canned green beans I followed the Ball Blue Book recipe for Dilly Beans. They were fine, but I decided they needed more kick; a few summers of experimenting later and I’ve found my perfect bean recipe. It’s spicier than the original, with a stronger vinegar kick.
The beans have proved very popular. I can easily eat an entire jar if I’m not careful (garlic and all), and they’re quickly devoured when I take them to parties. Last week, I went to a girls’ movie night, hosted by the wonderful Seattle Bon Vivant, and I took a jar of these beans. This was the first time I’d met most of the girls (though, in typical small-world fashion, turns out one was a former classmate, and someone whose blog I’ve been reading for a while now). I left promising to post the recipe soon. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the project this summer, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Spicy Dilly Beans (adapted from the Ball Blue Book; makes about six pints)
If you’ve never canned before, you should probably do some reading first. The Ball Blue Book is a cheap and easy-to-follow resource to get you started. Most hardware stores that sell jars also sell the Blue Book. Food in Jars is another fantastic resource.
- 3 Tbsp pickling salt (it’s important to use canning salt, not regular salt, though I don’t remember the exact science behind the reason)
- 4 cups white vinegar (the original recipe calls for an equal vinegar to water ratio, but I like a stronger vinegar flavor)
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp celery seed
- 3 Tbsp crushed red pepper OR 4-5 slices per jar of jalapeno or other hot pepper
- 4-5 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut to fit your jars (I used 12 oz quilted jelly jars, but what I really want are Weck asparagus jars. Santa, are you reading?)
- fresh dill sprigs (one per jar) or 2 Tbsp dill seed
- 4-5 cloves garlic per jar (this past summer, I used Romanian Red, which has very large cloves, so I only needed one or two cloves per jar)
- Prepare canner, jars, and lids, as you would for any canning project.
- Combine salt, vinegar, water and dried spices in a large pan. Bring to a boil, then add beans and return to a boil. Once the mixture returns to a boil, remove from heat.
- Place garlic (and dill sprigs and jalapenos, if using) in each hot jar, then pack beans into jars to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle brine into jar to cover beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed, then wipe rim and put on lid.
- Place jars in canner, and make sure they’re covered by at least an inch of water. Process for 10 minutes, then turn off burner, remove canner lid, and wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
- Beans are good immediately, but better after a few weeks. They’ll keep for up to a year (actually, they probably keep longer, but once you taste them, you’ll find it’s not likely you’ll need to worry about how long they keep – your biggest worry will be whether you made enough to get you through the winter).
The beans, garlic, and fresh dill all came from my in-laws’ garden. They live just up the street from us and my father-in-law is absolutely obsessed with gardening. This works out particularly well for me. While I love gardening, I have neither the space nor the time to really devote myself to a full garden, so I plant my small raised beds entirely in tomatoes. Fortunately, my in-laws have a massive garden – one that produces far more than they could ever use – and they’re very happy when I show up with my garden bag. I really lucked out in the in-laws department.
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