Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hannah Fries: Dilly Beaning

As summer bounty builds, Project Editor Hannah Fries is prepping pint jars, bringing water to a boil, and indulging her love of this favorite pickle.

Now this is midsummer bounty: the bush beans in our garden have come just ahead of the cucumbers, and it’s a good thing, because I’m not sure there’s enough space in the boiling water bath — or on the kitchen counter — for everyone. The bean plants are beautiful as well as prolific, the leaves lush and heart-shaped, the beans long and slender, poised like little dancers. As one of the first seeds I remember planting as a child, they hold a touch of nostalgia too, a bit of Jack-and-the-Beanstalk wonder at the way they grow.
Dilly beans made by Hannah and her husband, with some of their homegrown garlic
My husband’s Texan mother would not hesitate to cook these fine specimens thoroughly in bacon grease and serve them sprinkled with bacon. I have no objection to this (it’s bacon, after all). But our favorite thing to do with Haricots verts (besides munching on them raw while grazing in the garden) is to make dilly beans. This year’s first harvest, from a row about 10 feet long, yielded 8 stuffed pints of tangy, garlicky, slightly spicy delights.  I warn you, they are addictive. My husband claims that the mere mention of dilly beans makes him salivate (as does whispering the word kimchi in his ear). In our house they become a go-to snack, and the jars empty so quickly, pickled garlic cloves and all (keeps those nasty ticks away, we say!), that I’m not sure why I even bother with the boiling-water bath when the hot brine seals them up quite adequately to last until they are eaten . . . like, next week.

The bushes are laden again, even heavier now. I picked last night until the mosquitoes threatened to suck me dry, and still there are more beans, materializing like magic from behind a magician’s many leafy green capes. Time for another round of dilly beaning. A friend has promised to trade us a jar of pickled beets, so I’ll have to hide at least one jar of beans away for later. Maybe I’ll hide another while I’m at it, and with any luck I’ll forget where I put it until the depths of winter.

Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put ’Em Up, writes, “My friends go crazy for Dilly Beans. I don’t know if it’s because they like the way they taste or because they like to say ‘dilly beans.’”

I suspect it’s both. Here’s her tasty recipe, which makes about 8 pints (and, of course, if you are planning on storing them for any length of time outside of the fridge, you should process them as directed):

Dilly Beans

4 pounds green beans, washed, topped, and tailed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh dill weed
2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt

  1. Cut beans into lengths 1 inch shorter than the pint jars. Pack the beans vertically in eight clean, hot jars, somewhat tightly. Divide the garlic, dill weed, dill seed, and peppercorns among the jars.
  2.  Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the beans to cover by ½ inch. Leave ½ inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Recipe excerpted from Put ’Em Up © 2010 by Sherri Brooks Vinton. All rights reserved.

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