Make Aunt Lena’s Dilly Beans

My Great-Aunt Lena, with Great-Uncle Bill, looking just as I remember them. Photo courtesy Gary Jervis.

When I was a kid, we always had a family reunion with Mom’s people in the summer. Everyone brought wonderful things from their gardens. The huge buffet set up in the red brick picnic shelter that was the center of all fair-weather family activities. My Great Uncle Bill and his brothers built the city park-sized shelter themselves, in Aunt Lena and Uncle Bill’s huge backyard.

One thing you could always count on was a tasty assortment of pickled veggies. Peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, and my favorite, Dilly Beans. My Great-Aunt Lena made the best Dilly Beans. When the jar was opened, that sharp, garlicky scent got your attention in a hurry.

Her recipe for them is below–I found it recently while going through my recipes. My guess is that it’s adapted from The Ball Blue Book, because it’s so close to the one printed there. Try them both, and see which one you like best!

Great-Aunt Lena’s Dilly Beans
Prepare The Beans
2 lbs. trimmed green beans
6 heads dill (Ball’s recipe uses 4 heads)
6 cloves garlic (Ball’s recipe uses 4)
2-1/2 cups vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup canning salt

Sterilize 4 to 5 pint jars, lids and bands–see The Ball Blue Book for details on sterilizing.

Jar the Beans
Pack raw beans ‘standing up’ into the sterile, hot jars. You need 1/4 inch headspace att he top of each jar, so trim beans to fit if needed. In each jar, put in 1 1/4 heads of dill and garlic.

Brine
Because you’re using vinegar in the brine, it’s important you use a non-reactive pot to make your brine. Choose an enamelware or glass sauce pot.

Preserve The Beans
Bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Be sure to stir well to dissolve the salt. Bring to a boil, and boil 2 minutes. Carefully ladle the brine into the jars. Be sure to leave 1/4 headspace in each jar, and pour slowly to minimize air bubbles. Top jars with lids and bands. Listen for the sealing ‘ping’ as the jars of beans cool. Again, refer to the Blue Book for details.

Makes about 4 pints if beans are loosely packed, 5 if beans are packed tightly and you choose to dill any beans ‘trimmed to fit’.

Ball’s recipe also calls for a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. However, my garlic and dill loving family seems to have skipped that ingreident.

Serve beans icy cold, with sour cream or ranch dressing for dipping, or chop and add to a green salad. They are also fantastic in my Granny’s Five Bean Salad–but that’s another recipe–and another story!

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