Barbara Daniel of Cross Lanes, W.Va., was looking for a "good old" recipe for making pickled green beans. She said that her grandmother always made them, but most of her recipes are long gone.
Gene Fisher from Baltimore sent in a copy of an article from The Backwoodsman magazine written by Benny Finch that had good basic information on canning and pickling, as well as his recipe for making crisp dill pickled green beans. As the article states, many people are again looking into canning as a method of preserving their garden harvest or farmers' market purchases.
Canning is really not all that difficult and one doesn't need an expensive canner to pickle or put up jams and jellies. A large soup pot will work just fine, so long as it is deep enough to allow the water to cover the jars with about an inch of water to spare. It is important to have a rack that fits inside the pot for the jars to sit on so that the boiling water can circulate under each jar, allowing for more uniform heating.
Finch suggests using a long, stringless bush variety of snap beans such as Contender or Blue Lake. If you don't have your own garden, you should be able to find them at your local farmers' market into the fall. Look for a stringless variety that has a nice snap when you break it.
So long as you don't object to your house smelling like vinegar for a few hours, an afternoon spent putting up beans or other fresh vegetables can happily yield a bounty that will last well into the winter. The biggest challenge may be waiting the two weeks for the beans to pickle before eating them.
Greg Brown from Belleville, Ill., is looking for the recipe for a cookie that his grandmother made when he was young. It looked like a small white pillow and was basically inedible unless it was dipped in hot coffee. He thinks his grandmother may have used a springerle rolling pin or mold to make the cookies, though they did not have a licorice flavor like a traditional German springerle cookie.
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Dill pickled green beans
3 pounds fresh snap green beans, washed
3 cups distilled white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup canning salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into 7 pieces or 7 small, whole peeled cloves
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, optional
You'll need seven 1-pint Mason jars.
Snap the green beans to lengths that fit your jars, leaving about an inch of space between the beans and the lids.
Sterilize the jars, lids and bands in very hot water, leaving them in the water until ready to pack.
In a saucepan, add the vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
Remove the jars from the hot water and in the bottom of each jar drop a slice of garlic, a sprig of dill and a dash of the red pepper flakes, if using.
Pack the green beans tightly into the jars. Take your time and pack them as full as possible. They will shrink some as they pickle.
Ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving an inch of space at the top of the jar.
After filling, take care to wipe the rims of the jars completely clean, as any foreign matter will cause the jars not to seal properly.
Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on finger-tight.
Place the jars on the canning rack in the boiler. Fill boiler with hot water, making sure the jars are completely covered so the water reaches an inch higher than the jars. Bring to a boil and hold at the boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the canner and place them on a towel to cool. Take care to keep them out of any draft or breeze, as this could cause the jars to crack.
Store jars at room temperature for two to three weeks to allow the beans to pickle.