I love dilly beans. I heart them. I less-than-three them. Not only are these pickled green beans super flavorful, but they retain their crunch far more readily than cucumber pickles. This makes dilly beans a very satisfying ‘first thing I learned to can’.
Here’s the recipe I use, plus a bunch of unasked for hints on how to can successfully and safely.
For each pound of fresh, crisp green beans you have, you’ll need:
- at least one clove of garlic per jar
- perhaps a little bit of fresh medium to hot peppers for some of the jars
- one dill seed head for each jar or 1 plus teaspoons of dill seed per half pint
- 2 cups vinegar (boring, white, distilled)
- 2 cups water (filtered is better)
- 4 Tablespoons salt
- 4 to 6 clean half pint jars or two to three pint jars with canning rings and good clean lids with no dings or dents on the undersides.
- Canning Tongs. Totally amazing implements, a thoroughly worthwhile investment
- a metal ladle or metal measuring cup to get the brine into the packed jars with, and
- a tall stockpot. In an ideal world you have a little metal grid tray thingy to fit in the bottom of the pot. I’ve lived without this for 15 years, it just means I have to can several jars at once. If I tried one at a time, they’d fall over in the boiling water and that’d mess everything up.
1) Set up your giant (tall) stockpot with a lot of water in it, put in all the jars and lids and rings, turn up the heat. You need to boil these things for 10 minutes or so to sterilize them (the clock doesn’t start till the boiling starts). Throw in a metal ladle or metal measuring cup to sterilize too.
2) Meanwhile, in a smaller pot on the stove, heat the vinegar and water and salt enough to get the salt to dissolve. Once this happens, turn off the heat while you get all the other elements in place. No need to boil off your brine.
3) Meanwhile, wash and snap your beans to roughly jar length lengths. Be ruthless about getting rid of sub-par green bean bits. I end up putting the nice lengths in one bowl and the odd lengths in another bowl. This lets me put all the pretty beans in a jar together, the better for holiday gifts.
4) As the jars are about done sterilizing, lay out a kitchen towel on the counter, grab your tongs and start fishing things out of the stockpot onto the towel. They’ll cool enough to be touchable in just a few minutes. Don’t leave them alone to get thoroughly cool, you need to work warm. Turn off the heat on the stockpot.
5) Throw the garlic cloves and any pepper pieces into the jars. Tip the jar sideways with one hand and stack in the beans tall-ways, like you’d load pencils into a cup. Leave a quarter to half inch of headroom at the top of the jar. Before you start the last jar, turn the heat back on under the brine.
When the jars are full of nice length beans, feel free to stuff some funky lengths in too. Add a dill seed head to each jar, or its compliment of plain ol’ dill seed.
6) Use your metal ladle to add very hot brine to the jars. Leave about a quarter inch of head room at the top. You may have extra brine. That’s fine. You can put it in a clean empty jar in the fridge if you’ll be canning more in the next few weeks, or just dump down the drain.
7) Use a clean towel to wipe off the rim of each jar. Put the lid nice and squarely on the jar. Using a finger through the canning ring to hold the lid just exactly where you want it, put the rings on the jars. Tighten only to finger tight, not tighter.
8) Use the tongs to load the jars into the stockpot. The water in the stockpot will still be very hot, be careful. Add or subtract water to get an inch of water above the lid of the tallest jar. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, boil ten minutes.
CRITICAL: by boil I don’t mean simmer, I mean full rolling boil. The ten minutes of processing time for your dilly beans doesn’t start until at minimum a vigorous bubbling boil has been achieved. If you are using quarts, you’ll need to boil longer. Personally, I don’t work with quart jars because I don’t have any stock pots that deep.
9) After ten minutes, turn off the heat and use the tongs to remove the jars to the towel. They must stand on this towel for 24 hours undisturbed now. You’ll hear the lids snapping down over the course of the next few hours. After 24 hours, tighten the lid rings again, and then put’em up.
Important “home-canning theory” things:
The working hot thing: If you let the jars cool down and then pack them and put them back in the hot stockpot of water, the stress on the glass will cause some of the jars to break. It’s a sharp snapping sound almost upon impact with the bottom of the pot. Very sad. Very very sad.
There are, of course, exceptions: Raw pack tomatoes start with cool jars, but they start with cold stockpot water too.
Why is this kind of home-canning safe? Boiling water bath canning can be done safely for foods that are highly acidic: fruits, tomatoes, and pickled foods. If you are working with non-pickled vegetables, you must have a pressure cooker to raise the temperature high enough to kill off any bacteria.
Processing times: vary by size of jar, recipe being followed, food being canned, etc. This is not a good time to ‘wing-it’. Have a recipe, follow it. I know my dilly bean canning recipe looks fuzzy, but the important ratios are there: size of jar, pounds of beans, amount of vinegar, water, and salt in the brine, and processing time.
Anyway, congrats on your first batch of dilly beans. It’ll take a minimum of two weeks for the flavor to develop, and they’ll keep for a full year once you’ve canned them. (I’ve never actually had any last that long though- too tasty. They are gone by March or April. Just in time to start prepping the ground for growing an Iroquois style 3 sister’s garden, with beans, corn, and squash.)