In preserving, as with most things, it’s all about the right tool for the job. To the untrained eye, one mason jar may look more or less like another, and while it’s true they all get the job done, each has its strengths. For example, wide-mouth jars with shoulders are particularly good for when you need to pack things in and not have them float, like pickles or whole fruit. I have a cache of more than 50 quart jars that we use almost exclusively for our annual tomato-canning extravaganza. And while you can never have enough half-pint jars for jams, I also really love the tiny 4-oz. jars expressly because they make quick, cute and inexpensive gifts.
But there are two jars that have particular use: The Ball 12-oz. quilted jars and 24-oz. pint-and-a-half jars. Each of these is 50% larger than their standard counterparts (half pint and pint, respectively), and each has a straight, cylindrical profile. This, then, makes them perfect for canning long, narrow things, like asparagus — and green beans.
When I’m feeling a bit peckish, I don’t grab candy. Salty snacks and crackers have a siren song, but even then I can navigate those waters. No, my ultimate go-to bite is a pickle. It ticks all the boxes: Cool, juicy, salty, tangy. And if it can be a bit spicy, so much the better. Dilly beans tick all the boxes. You can settle in front of the tube with a big bowl of popcorn; I’ll curl up with a jarful of these slender, spicy spears.
They’re also an excellent project for the newbie preserver. It’s as simple as packing the product into the jar, bringing a vinegar brine to a boil, and pouring same brine into the jar. They can be processed if you want them to be shelf-stable, but even if you just refrigerate them they’ll keep for weeks. As if they’ll last that long.
Dilly Beans Recipe
Reprinted with permission and lightly adapted from “Pickled: From curing lemons to fermenting cabbage, the gourmand’s ultimate guide to the world of pickling” by Kerry Carrolata
Note: When you fill your jars, really pack these beans in. Even if you think you can’t cram one more in, try it; you’ll be surprised how many you can fit in, and it will help them keep from floating in the jar. Also, be sure not to use iodized salt, like table salt. It will discolor your pickles over time.
1 lb green beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes, or 1 serrano pepper, sliced
3 tsp dill seed, or several sprigs fresh dill weed
1 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
3 Tbsp pickling or canning salt
Wash the green beans and trim their ends so that they are uniform. If needed, cut them further so that they will fit easily inside of the jars you are using to can them.
Divide the beans into sterilized canning jars, along with the garlic, pepper flakes and dill seed. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegars, water and pickling salt to a boil, until the salt dissolves.
Pour the pickling mixture over the green beans and cap the jars.
Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Alternatively, allow to cool and refrigerate.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.