Laugh if you will at jars of Dilly Beans. Whisper behind your hand into the ear of another, “that Renea is country come to town.” Go ahead, whispers don’t bother me. As we say back home, “you’re just leaving more for us.”
People have laughed at my Dilly Beans. Those million-dollar home kind of folk, the kind that turn up their nose and have no idea what they are missing. True foodies, those that embrace heritage, appreciate the sacred relationship formed when Dilly Bean lovers open a can.
Each spring I travel to Ladd’s farm supply in Cartersville, Georgia and load tiny paper envelopes with beautiful seeds such as rattlesnake, and October beans. I adore beans. I eat them raw, bake them southern style (with a hunk of seasoning meat), and pack them into jars of garlicky brine. It is this process that creates a delectable delicacy called Dilly Beans.
First, in order to create Dilly Beans you must grow the bean. For the love of humanity, and my personal sanity, please do not attempt to make Dilly Beans using rubbery store-bought beans.
Mercy no !
In Bryson City, North Carolina where I’m from, (and where those million-dollar home folk love to visit, people plant fields of white half runner beans. In the alternative a “crease back” (also called Greasy Beans) will do. If you want a good Dilly Bean, don’t waste precious space planting a Bush Bean.
While Bush Beans are delicious and have their place at the table, one
must grow a bean that, when mature, has a white bean inside. Full beans resemble fingers. They are crunchy and bursting with flavor. Garlic and dill are two other key ingredients. Both easily grown in most parts of the country, or purchased in stores, if it is an actual emergency.
After picking and rinsing beans, add garlic and dill to the jar. If necessary use a butter knife to press beans together.
Now it’s time to make the brine, but first a story about how I discovered Dilly Beans (excerpt from my book In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches 2014 release).
I first tried dilly beans at the Sawmill Hill Freewill Baptist Church in my hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina. As ladies unwrapped fried chicken, potato salad, and a bounty of other made-from-scratch dishes, Annie Mae Cooper popped open three wide-mouth jars.
“What are those?” I asked as she placed one jar on each table.
“Dilly beans,” she replied.
I am certain my face revealed confusion. Perhaps I even turned up my nose just a bit which is why she pierced two beans with a silver fork, cupped her hand to collect the dripping brine and approached.
“Just try ’em.”
Crisp and filled with garlic flavor, dilly beans are delicious. They are so scrumptious they have replaced pickles at my house. Annie Mae, thank you for sharing this recipe. It is with great pride that I pass it along to others. If you like dill pickles, you will love this recipe.
Supplies: 4 to 6 pint jars, rings and can lids.
2 pounds unbroken green beans (washed with stems and strings removed)
4 heads fresh dill
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic
2 ½ cups water
2 ½ cups white vinegar
¼ cup pickling salt or kosher salt
Combine water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan. Heat until mixture begins to boil, and salt has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Place a small sprig of dill and one slice of garlic in the bottom of a glass canning jar. Sprinkle pepper flakes into jars then tightly pack beans lengthwise inside.
Pour liquid into jar. Leave ¼ inch of space at the top. Wipe the jar opening with a clean cloth to remove any trace amounts of moisture. Place a lid on the top, secure lid and tighten ring just enough to seal the jar.
Dilly beans are processed in a water bath. No pressure cooker is required. One only needs a large pot with enough headroom to cover the jars with one-half (1/2) inch of water.
To prevent glass from breaking, pour warm water into the pot. Add jars. Make certain water covers the lids. Cover pot with lid and heat water until boiling. Boil in water bath for ten minutes.
Use metal tongs to remove and then place jars on a towel to cool. When the lids make that unmistakable popping sound, they have sealed.
Place any jars that do not seal in the refrigerator. Dilly beans are ready to enjoy three weeks after processing. This time allows the spices to flavor the beans.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Her next release, In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches features delicious recipes like this.