Having lived in Maine for so long I have long known about dilly beans; however, I had never tried dilly beans until recently when we opened a jar we made a few weeks ago. Although I had heard about dilly beans for years, no one I knew made them so I never tried them. I didn’t go out of my way to find them because I did not grow beans so I never had an excess supply to preserve and dill pickles aren’t my favorite, I much prefer bread and butter and half-sour.
This past summer was a challenging year for growers in the central Arizona mountains. We had an unusually hot and dry June which, even for the plants that survived, delayed fruit setting on vegetables like tomatoes and tomatillos and peppers. Apparently it was a good year for beans because there were a lot at the farmers’ market. This, combined with a friend and I talking about them for the last couple of years because he is working with a guy looking to commercially produce them in Maine because they are so good, prompted me to set things in motion one weekend to make a batch.
I settled on a recipe after talking to people and reading lots of recipes. They are basically all the same except for minor differences, such as whether to add garlic, cayenne pepper, or a little of another herb. The recipe we made should really be kosher dilly beans because there is a clove of garlic in each jar.
I am glad we made the dilly beans. They are by far the easiest shelf-stable pickle we make. The beans are not even cooked first. I first cut the beans to length (I put a couple of small lines on the wood cutting board with a pencil), then, to a pint jar, a clove of garlic, some fresh dill fronds from the garden, and a little cayenne pepper is added, then the beans are put in the jar as tight as possible. After that the hot brine is added, the jars are sealed, and put in the water bath for processing for the recommended time, 10 minutes at sea level. The only hard part was waiting two weeks for the flavors to mingle before tasting them. The other good thing is that the recipe is very scalable. All you need are more jars and more brine to make all you need to match the amount of beans you have. The basic brine ratio is equal parts water and vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt per cup of liquid. You can also mix types of beans. If you have green beans, yellow beans, and wax beans, they can all go in the same jar.
The finished bean is crunchy with a bright fresh flavor. They are a great snack or addition to an appetizer plate. They only difference I will investigate for next year is 1.5 pint jars. The farmer we purchased the beans from mentioned that is the size jar she uses because they are a bit taller. That way not as much will have to be trimmed off. Have no fear that the cut ends were wasted; they ended up soup later in the week.