This post was written by Caitlin Kekacs, who attended the EAC’s Dilly Bean workshop as a visitor from new England.
When I was a child growing up in eastern Maine, it seemed like my mother was always canning something in the summer. Blueberry jam. Apple butter. Brandied peaches. Pickles. But most of all, dilly beans. Dilly beans have a special crunch and freshness–even after they’ve been soaking in vinegar for six months–that is hard to match.
Although I remember things like the steam filling the kitchen when my mom took the lid off the huge canning pot, I realized recently that I had no idea how the beans were actually made or what about the canning process made it safe to store the sealed jars unrefrigerated in our basement. I was visiting my father in Halifax last week and had the chance to attend Ecology Action Centre’s dilly bean workshop, where my questions were answered, and then some.
Over the course of about two hours, I learned about the importance of sanitizing the Mason jars before filling them by immersion in boiling water for at least ten minutes. I picked the stems off green beans and wax beans while chatting with the other participants, and the enormous pile of beans to be cleaned disappeared far more quickly than I would have expected as people shared their favorite canning recipes. Did you know that you can pickle asparagus, broccoli stems, and carrots using the same recipe as for dilly beans and dill pickles?
After stuffing our jars to bursting with dill, fresh garlic, and the colorful green and yellow beans, we carefully filled the jars with a mixture of hot vinegar and water, placed the two-piece lids on top, and put them back into the boiling water for another fifteen minutes to ensure a sterile product. The process was surprisingly simple, and it was easy to imagine how much fun two friends could have, sitting around on a weekend, snapping beans and catching up on each other’s lives, and then going home with garden fresh veggies to eat throughout the winter.