Dilly beans are the best pickle. There, I said it. You may or may not agree with me, but in any case, you should probably whip some up while beans are plentiful this year and decide for yourself. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. In a recent poll of the farm crew, I realized that not everyone knows what dilly beans are. In short, dilly beans are pickled green beans flavored with dill. Of course, you can flavor them with additional items or, I guess, omit the dill, but then would they be dilly beans? I guess not, and that’s half the fun (and flavor!)
Dilly beans have a delightful crunchy texture and in my opinion are one of the most elegant pickles for purposes of presentation. I like to add fresh garlic from the farm and cayenne pepper for a little heat. Perhaps the best thing about dilly beans is how easy they are to make! Since they use a “cold pack” method and have a short processing time, they are an excellent beginner project if you are trying to get into canning your own food. But don’t get overwhelmed if you’re not a canner! You can still make dilly beans as “refrigerator pickles,” meaning that you don’t can them! Just follow the instructions and at the end, store your jars in the fridge and consume them within a month or two.
The recipe I use is a very simple one from my favorite canning book, Food in Jars by Marissa McClellan.You can use any bean you like, green, yellow, skinny, fat, as long as they are not stringy. The real trick to me is to start with very high quality and very fresh beans, which is no problem at all when you are a member of Bellair Farm’s CSA. The first thing to do is make sure you’ve washed your beans well and then I like to snap off the stem ends. You can leave them on for sure, but I like to take them off so people don’t have the “am I supposed to eat this part?” moment when they encounter them. I like to leave the other end on because I think it makes them look fancy.
The brine is made by combining equal parts vinegar and water with a little pickling salt. Bring this (and your canning pot, if you’re canning) to a boil while you prep the beans.
Next, you cold-pack into clean sterile pint jars. If you aren’t canning them, you can use just about any vessel at all. Just stuff as many beans into each jar as you can, since you will run out of brine if you don’t.
Since the recipe is all ratios, you can double the recipe or mess with the seasoning a bit if you like, but be very careful unless you are a knowledgeable canner. One substitution I like is to put mustard seeds in place of the dill seed, but the classic is a classic for a reason, y’all. I definitely recommend both the garlic and cayenne. The 1/4 tsp she calls for adds just a touch of heat. Increase it if you are a heat lover.
After that, just pour the boiling brine over the pickles and process them in a boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes or let them cool then store them in the fridge for refrigerator pickles. Either way, they make the perfect appetizer, snack or potluck addition. Honestly, on hot summer days, I often just add bread, cheese, and olives and call it “picnic dinner!”
Beans will be coming in waves throughout the summer, so I hope some of you make some and let me know what you think! Happy pickling!