There is something about putting up a batch of summer's green beans, watching the beautiful floating herbs marinating the beans. Later in the year, when the days are shorter, it feels exciting and nostalgic to pick out a jar to share. Peering in at the amber liquid and floating beans and spices, we may as well be munching on time suspended, summer preserved. It calls up memories of a beautiful, perfect season together. Which this is. It makes me grateful for the passing of time and the gift of that time. How lucky and blessed we are.
Also, Bill absolutely adores Dilly Beans and makes a big deal about opening a jar. It brings me immense joy to see him happily snacking on them next to me.
If you've never pickled anything, these may be a good starter for you. As a vinegar pickle (rather than a fermented pickle), they are straightforward, don't require a lot of prep, and maintain a nice crispness. Did I mention they are delicious? The beans really take on great flavor as they sit in the herbs and spices. Plus, they really are beautiful -- perfect for a gift (if you happen to get one from me, that's a pretty big deal -- Bill guards these and, as generous as he is, would rather we gift things like marmalade).
adapted from Put 'Em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton
makes 6 pint-sized jars
3 pounds green beans (or a variety of colored green beans: yellow, green, purple), washed, topped, tailed (note: if using purple beans, they will lose their color and turn green as they are processed)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup fresh dill weed, broken/cut into pieces as long as the beans or shorter
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons celery seed
1-2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes or 6 small, dried red chilies
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon salt
1. Sterilize your jars and lids for canning and have them ready to go.
2. Get the hot water bath going -- it takes a while to come to a boil.
3. Cut beans to fit into the jars. They should be about 1 inch shorter than the height of the pint jars.
4. Put the beans vertically into your clean, hot jars. Pack in as many as you can.
5. Divide the garlic, dill, celery seed, hot pepper flakes (or whole dry peppers), and peppercorns among the jars.
6. Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Pour the hot brine over the beans, covering by about 1/2 inch, but leaving about 1/2 inch of space between the liquid and top of the jar. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth, put on the clean lids and screw tops, tightening only enough to close.
Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let the jars sit in the hot water another 5 minutes with the canner lid off. Remove the hot jars carefully, using canning tongs. Check that all the jars sealed (this could take up to 12 hours), then store sealed jars in a cool, dark cabinet for up to a year. Unsealed jars can be put in the fridge to eat within a month or two (although ours rarely last an evening). Wait at least a week before eating to allow the flavors to develop.
Enjoy with friends and family, savor the moment and the memory of summer.