Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dilly Beans

I came back from vacation to a jungle. Grass and weeds have taken over. The onions have gone from almost ready to past ready to harvest. The tomatoes have broken their twine (lesson learned: say no to sisal) and were a giant tomato forest covering every inch of dirt in one corner of the garden. The pumpkins have succumbed to bacterial wilt. The cucumbers are huge and swollen and no good for pickling. The summer squash plants have joined the pumpkins in wilt. The red peppers are all covered with bug bites. How could this have happened in 10 short days?

We're still digging out. I pulled out the onions, although white and red varieties mostly rotted in the ground. Onions are easier to cure than garlic; if there is no rain in the forecast, you can leave them on the ground next to where you pulled them. With our changeable Ohio weather, I put them on the porch. Once they're dry, they'll be ready to store.

I did get a bit lucky--I didn't miss the green beans. I went to the garden to weed them out of their grass jungle, and found more beans than I'd ever seen. I'd only planted 12 feet of row, since really only my daughter and I like them. But we picked almost four pounds of beans from those poor, weed-crowded, bug-eaten plants, with more to come. Since I knew that we'd never eat them all, I canned them instead.

I know, that sounds gross. Canned green beans are the stuff of elementary school cafeteria nightmares. And they can't be canned safely without a pressure canner; improperly canned green beans are a common culprit in botulism cases. However, there is a way to can delicious green beans in a boiling water canner--Dilly Beans! If you're a fan of dill pickles, you should give these little gems a try. We made a few jars of regular, and a few jars of spicy. You should try them both ways and see which you like best. Use the freshest beans you can possibly get for the crispest final product; they start to not be as good if the beans are even a few days old. And don't forget--never mess with the proportion of vinegar, salt and water in a recipe or the canned goods may be unsafe to eat.

Dilly Beans

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book

3-4 lbs. trimmed fresh green beans
10 heads fresh dill, or dill seed, or a combination of both
10 cloves garlic
5 jalapeño peppers OR red pepper flakes if you like spicy beans; or leave it out
Some mixed pickling spice, if you feel like it.
5 cups vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
5 cups water
1/2 cup canning salt (don't substitute regular salt)

Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Pack beans as tightly as possible lengthwise into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Regular mouth jars work best, because the shoulders on the jars keep the beans submerged in the brine. To each pint, add:
  • 1/2 a jalapeño pepper OR 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (If you want hot beans);
  • 1 clove garlic;
  • 1 head dill OR 1/2 tsp. dill seed and;
  • 1/2 tsp. mixed pickling spice (if you feel like it, or not)
Pour hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Let the beans sit for at least two weeks to develop the flavor before trying them.

Yield: about 10 pints.

If you have never canned anything before and want a description of what to do with the lids and jars, etc., read this post on making dill pickles. Just remember that you DO want to boil the beans for the full 10 minutes instead of pasteurizing them. While cucumbers wither when exposed to high temperatures, beans need the high heat to break down their enzymes and stop them from getting mushy. I hope you like them! My three-year-old, who loves both raw green beans and pickles, thinks they are the best veggies she's ever tasted.