Canning is a great cheap way of making the most of the summer harvest. You don't have to grow your own food either to enjoy the savings. Living in Chicago, I don't have any space for a garden. I just wait until the veggies are cheap at the store or farmers market, and buy low to put that stuff away for the winter.
Please note: Canning is fun and easy, but you do need to be careful to sterilize all your jars properly. For high acid foods like pickles or fruit preserves, boiling them for a short period of time is an easy way to kill any bacteria. Have fun, but be careful and be safe, so you don't poison everyone.
Step 1: Gather Your Beans
As I said, I don't have a garden, so I keep an eye out at the store for good sales. I found some cheap beans at our local market, so it was time for the annual Dilly Green Beans! My recipe calls for about 4 lbs , which cost me approximately $2.50.
Step 2: Gather Your Other Ingredients and Tools
3-4 lbs green or yellow beans
5 cups of Vinegar (I usually use white and/or cider, but you can experiment with other types as well)
5 cups of water
1/2 cup kosher or pickling salt. (you want to use a coarser grain of salt then just table salt)
Seasonings Per Jar:
1/2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic
You will need to purchase or acquire canning specific jars and lids. Bell Jars are the most common. The lids generally come with a seal top with a ring that twists onto top of jar to hold on lid with the seal. You can find these products at some grocery stores or hardware stores. Not everyone carries them anymore, but perhaps just try calling stores ahead before going to purchase in case they carry the products.
Once you have the Jars though, its not absolutely mandatory to have other canning specific tools. Items which help are a canning pot with a rack made to hold canning jars as well as tongs shaped for grabbing jars.
However, I just use a large 5 gallon aluminum stock pot, we got a long time ago for brewing beer. I think we bought it at a local grocery store for about $15. A canning rack is used to keep the jars away from touching the bottom and sides of the hot metal pot. Because I don't have a rack, I just put a dish towel at the bottom of the pot and sit the jars on top of the towel to keep the jars from having contact with the hot metal. It works fine, although slightly annoying. I recently got canning tongs, but before that, I used regular kitchen tongs. You can improvise with what you have.
Step 3: Prepare Beans
Step 4: Sterilize Jars
I am sterilizing a bunch of pint and quart jars to allow me to distribute the beans in jars so they will all fit. I am sterilizing a few more then I think I will need just to be safe.
Keep water boiling because you will need the boiling water later to seal the jars.
Step 5: Add Seasoning to Jars
Once jars are dry, add seasonings for every pint jar:
1/2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/4 red pepper flakes
1-2 cloves of garlic.
Just drop them in the bottom of the jar. If you are using quart jars, double the measurements given above.
If you can't find the individual seeds, you can usually find something called pickling spice. If you are using pickling spice, use 1 tsp of spice for each jar.
Step 6: Stuff Beans in to Jars
Step 7: Make Your Brine
5 cups of vinegar. (I mix 2 1/2 cups of white and 2 1/2 cups cider vinegar)
5 cups of water
1/2 cup of kosher or pickling salt.
Bring brine to a boil to fully dissolve salt.
Step 8: Pour Brine Into Jars
If you have beans sticking out, just pull them out and snap them in half and stuff back in there.
You don't want the beans to be pushing up against the seal lid when you put it on. Its okay if the beans stick out a bit from the brine, but its best to have as many below the surface of the brine as possible when considering the length of your beans in the jar.
Step 9: Put Lids on Jars
The jars have probably cooled down during the stuffing process. Its best to put a hot jar into the boiling water. If the jars and contents are cool or cold, you run the risk of shocking the jars with the extreme temperature difference which can cause glass breakage. That is not fun! So I soak the jars quickly in a bowl of hot water to get them hot to the touch to prep for the sealing process.
Step 10: Boil Jars to Seal
Watch the water, and when it begins to be a rolling boil again, start timing for the sealing process. For dilly green beans, I leave the jars in for 5 minutes.** After 5 minutes, take the jars out and allow to sit on the counter. As the jars cool, a vacuum will form in the jars and suck the lid down. As the jars sit, you will hear an occasion ping. That ping indicates the seal has been successfully made. Its one of the most rewarding sounds in the kitchen!
You may notice after a couple of hours that some jars haven't sealed; the lid is not sunken down but still able to be pushed up and down. One reason your jars may not have sealed is because they needed more time in the boiling water. You can just reprocess them by placing them back in boiling water. Try leaving them in for between 5-10 minutes.**
It is possible some foreign matter may be between the jar and the seal lid which may be another reason your jars did not seal. For example, if you are using a towel, its possible the jars might fall over in the pot during the boiling process. This might cause some of your spice to get caught in your seal. Unscrew the lids and check the seals to make sure there aren't any foreign objects (like any of your seeds of pepper flakes) affecting the contact of the jar with the seal ring on the lid. Try removing the ring and lid to check for foreign matter affecting your seal. If you see any, wipe away any from lid and seal. Remember, if you remove the lids, you must re-sterilize the lids before replacing them on the jar. Boil lids for a couple minutes to sterilize and place the lids back on the jars and reprocess (in a rolling boil) for another 5-10 minutes, and allow to sit. They should seal up. If you have tried reprocessing a couple of times and the seals are not being made, there is always a chance you have a faulty jar or lid.***
**Processing times are given for low elevation areas. For elevations of 3000-5000 ft, add 5-10 minutes to boiling time. For elevations above 5000 ft process for at least 15 minutes.
**Never use jars which have cracks or chips in the upper rim, and never use lids and rings which are dented or bent in such a way as to not allow full contact with seal to jar. If the lid does not have full contact with the jar, the lid may not fully seal, or worse, the jar may appear sealed but any crack in jar or nick in seal lid may allow a small amount of air through over time, which will create an environment for bacteria. If you ever pull a jar out of your pantry in which the lid is not sucked down but has popped back up in the center on its own, discard contents of jar and DO NOT eat.
Step 11: Label Jars and Put in Pantry
I love dilly green beans!