Making Stuff: Dilly Beans

Making Stuff: Dilly Beans

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Enough talking about making, let’s get to work — it’s summer, and our Hutterite neighbors are filling the local grocery with their lovely green beans — so today it’s dilly beans. They’re so easy, and they’re a huge improvement on the sludgy canned green beans I grew up on (if you want to preserve plain beans for winter, I’d go with the blanch-and-freeze method. They stay much nicer than the pressure canned ones.)

So, I use Michael Symon’s pickling brine recipe from his Live to Cook. It’s dead simple — half and half vinegar to water, 2 tablespoons each salt and sugar for each 3 cups of liquid. Then aromatics. I’ve been doing a bunch of pickles lately, so I splurged on the half gallon jug of organic apple cider vinegar, but you can use any vinegar, including the plain white vinegar that you might also use for cleaning. It’s perfectly fine. Mix the water and vinegar in a pot, add the salt and sugar, and bring to a boil — these are cold-packed pickles, meaning you pack the vegetables in raw (cold) then cover with hot brine, and process in a water bath.

I’m fairly loose with my pickles — for dilly beans I sliced about a clove of garlic per jar into thin slices, added about half a teaspoon of dill seed, and a little bit of dried red pepper (off my ristra from last year’s garden peppers). I like a little heat in my dilly beans, but if that’s not your thing, leave it out.

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I did have one exciting moment – when I put this jar in the hot water bath, I heard it crack. This happens sometimes, and it’s nothing to panic about, but it can be a pain. I used my big flat Chinese spider strainer and a pair of tongs to scoop the broken jar out and into a bowl, then dumped the beans and aromatics into a new jar, added more brine, a new lid and ring, and back it went. Good as new.

Fifteen minutes in a water bath, cooled on the counter, and then into the pantry with the Persian Tarragon pickles and the Pickled Carrots I made last week. Because the light has changed, and even though we’re suffering in the bright heat of a Montana summer, when the wind blows and the humidity drops to less than the percentage that lumber yards use to kiln dry wood, that time of year when it feels like the whole world is going to burst into flame out here — but the light has changed, and we got a little rain last night, and you can tell that winter is coming. So time to put up the pickles …

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