Someone said they would love to learn more about canning, i.e. Food preservation earlier this summer, so I’ll share some of my canning adventures this fall. Today is a busy day, there will be beans to pickle and plums to jam. Let’s start with the dilled green beans. They are amazing if you have never tried them and pretty fool proof, like cucumber pickles,Mohicans are still hit or miss for me.
But first, we should talk equipment. Here’s what you need:
- A non ceramic stove top. Those smooth tops can break under the weight and heat from the canner. The old fashioned electric or gas stove is fine.
- A large pot for the brine, it needs to hold 2-3 quarts of liquid, so a Dutch oven works great.
- A hot water bath canner. These are usually available at hardware stores, Walmart, and ag related stores like Tractor Supply or Runnings. They are BIG, able to hold 7 quart jars.
- A canning kit, if you’ve never done this before. You probably have some of the items, but the canning kit contains the jar grabber and the funnel, which is exactly the size of a narrow mouth jar. They also contain a nifty lid grabber with a magnet on the end. Those three items are worth the kit!
- Jars and lids. A new box of jars comes with the rings and lids. The rings are resusable, the lids are not. Wide mouth are easier for novices to work with, especially for pickles of any kind.
- Various pans for sterilizing the jars, rings and lids, of which one should be a 9 X 13 metal cake pan or similar.
- Safe Recipes-I get mine from the Extension Service because they do the food safety research. **Any recipe that tells you to use the oven or dish washer is UNSAFE!!
Here’s some of my equipment. As you can see, I use tongs instead of the lid magnet…DH threw it away, because he didn’t like it!! If you have this assembled you can make jam, pickles, or preserve fresh fruit.
Grocery items you need for 8 pints of dilled green beans:
- 4 -5 pounds of green beans, at least 4 inches long and straight
- Canning salt (it has no iodine or anti-caking additives, so the brine remains clear)
- White vinegar (5% acidity-Don’t go fancy here, unless the acidity is marked. Good old Heinz or generic vinegar is a standard 5%.)
- Fresh dill weed. (Dill seed will work, but it isn’t as pretty)
- Red pepper flakes (not required, but ooh so good)
- Garlic clove for each jar
A batch of dilled green beans (8 pint jars) requires 4 pounds of beans, the straighter the better. If you buy beans, you can weigh and select the straight ones. If you pick like me, you sort and then prepare extra jars. It’s always better to have too much than not enough. If you buy, get extra, and you can have fresh green beans for dinner.
Before we start prepping the beans, its’s time to get the stove set up and the water, etc. heating. First, wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse. Fill the canner 1/3full of water and put it on your biggest back burner on medium high. On one of the two small burners, put a 2 qt. sauce pot with water and the rings and lids for the 8 jars. The pot needs to be large enough that the rings and lids are completely covered with water. Turn this on high, and when it begins to boil, turn it down, but keep the water on a stout simmer. On the second smaller burner, center your metal cake pan and add 8 pint jars, then add 2-3 inches of water. Put this on mediuhigh heat.
**The jars and lids need to be in boiling water so that they sterilize. They need to come to a full boil, then do a stout simmer 10-15 minutes depending on the altitude. The formula is 10 minutes for 1000 ft. Elevation or less + 1 minute for each additional 1000 feet.
The final large burner is for your brine solution. A Dutch oven is a great size for this. Into this pot measure your water, vinegar and salt. When pickling, you can do the math to make more or less solution, just remember that the ratios must remain the same. I am pretty picky about recipes. I generally use only the info provided by the canning guides produced by land grant institutions and their Extension Service. Today’s recipe has a simple brine: 4 cups water, 4 cups vinegar, and 1/2 cup canning salt.
See my stove set up below. Note how I have my lids and rings set up just like they will go on a jar. This is necessary for me when using tongs, because I’m a klutz.
Now that the liquids are heating up, it is time to turn our attention to the green beans.Wash them, snap off both ends, and then line them up on your cutting board and cut them into a 4 inch length. If they are longer, they will not fit into the jar. As it is you may still need to trim a few. Set the cut off pieces aside, there may be enough left over to have fresh green beans for dinner. Rinse those beans one more time, and put them in a large bowl so that you can easily grab a handful.
**When the water in the cake pan begins to boil, sometimes the jars will create a vacuum and suck up all the water. It usually makes a very strange sucking noise, so you will hear it. If that happens, no worries, just gently tilt or lift the jar to let the water escape.
Check your water, turning things up or down as necessary to move them down to a stout simmer or bring them up to a boil. Don’t forget, the jars and lids need 10 minutes plus to sterilize. While you are waiting, peel the garlic cloves, pull out a clean cloth to wipe the jar rims if you spill brine on them, find a 1/8 teaspoon or something tiny for the red pepper flakes, and finally remove 8 sprigs of dill. Once the jars are sterile and the brine is boiling, you are ready to assemble your jars!
Wash your hands again just before you assemble. You will have to put the beans into the jars with your bare hands, so get them as clean as possible before you begin. When you are ready to assemble, turn off the heat under the jars and lids. Carefully take a jar out (they are very hot) and add the clove of garlic, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes and the sprig of dill (fold it as necessary to fit, like the picture above.) Next, take a handful of green beans and slip them into the jar. Give it a good shake and/or swish, to help settle the beans, then add more until the jar is full. Don’t stuff the jar tight, but get them pretty crowded.
Once the jars are filled, you can use the funnel and your ladle to add the simmering brine. This recipe calls for 1/2 inch head space, so fill to the first ridge. Once the jars have brine, take your lids and rings from their pot and put them on the jars. If a rim is wet from brine, wipe it off with the cloth you have handy. Tighten the rings with your hand only. Using your handy jar grabber, pick them up and put them in the canner. The water needs to be 2-3 inches over the top of the jars. If you need more boiling water, use the water from the rings and lids pan, and the jars pan. Turn the burner on high, put the lid on and keep watch. When the canner has come to a full rolling boil, set your timer and consider turning the heat down just a bit. You don’t need an out of control boil, just a good rolling boil. For my altitude (1000-6000 ft.) the time is 10 minutes.
When the timer dings, turn off the heat and take off the lid. Place a towel on the counter, and use the jar grabber to carefully lift you jars out of the canner. You can tip them just enough to let the water run off the top as you pull them out. Let them sit on the towel, and in a few minutes you will hear the delightful ping of a jar sealing. Sealed jars have a concave lid and unsealed jars have a convex lid. Allow your jars to completely cool before you worry about unsealed lids. Unsealed lids make a popping sound when you push down on them, while sealed jars don’t move at all.
Let you pickles dill for 4-6 weeks before opening them, to maximize the flavor!