It is ironic that harvesting and storing the garden bounty must be done in the steamiest of weather, but that's when the vegetables start bounding out of the garden at a lightning clip and you can actually hear them growing when the cricket chirps die down. My friend Hope taught me how to can many years ago when I was an energetic, single young lass and I enjoyed making all kinds of weird chutneys and pickle relishes that I would give out to my bewildered relatives. "What is this and how do I eat it?" was their common reaction.
Once the kids came, my canning efforts ceased, as toddlers do not allow for the long preparation, focus and boiling water dangers that is necessitated. Now the kids are older and I have time to can again. The bean patch started to really churn last week, so I harvested up my beautiful purple string beans, snipped off their ends and prepared them to be pickled for later consumption. It is especially nice to chop up these dilled beans and sprinkle them in winter salads, when the good, fresh vegetable selection at the market is sparse. If you have never canned before, see if you can find a friend to show you the basics, as there are a lot of health issues involved with making sure every part of the canning process is sterilized.
If that is not possible, I would recommend getting a copy of the Ball Blue Book, published by the good folks at the Ball Canning Jar Corporation in Muncie, Indiana. Here, then, is the Dilly Bean recipe from the Ball Blue Book:
2 lbs. trimmed green beans
4 heads dill
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (I like to use red pepper flakes instead)
2-1/2 cups vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup canning salt (don't substitute regular salt, this is chemistry!)
Pack beans lengthwise into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. To each pint, add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill. Combine remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot (non-reactive, like an enamel or glass pot). Bring to a boil. Pour hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
Yield: about 4 pints. Happy Canning!