It’s Canning Season! Dilly Beans!

I’m not a canning expert. That needed to be disclosed first. I’m always afraid I’m going to accidentally can something with a high pH balance and kill all of my friends and family with botulism. Still, I do my best. It’s actually one of my favorite hobbies (canning, not killing people). And it’s finally canning season again!

When it comes to pickles – use what’s in season, since it will cost the least and yield the best results. I was at my favorite grocery store this week. Widest variety, cheapest produce of all time. Even though it’s a bit early for them, they had these gorgeous green beans for $.69/pound. K. I bought two pounds, knowing exactly where all of them would end up. As dilly beans in my summer weekend bloodies.

Is there any reason to drink a Bloody Mary if it’s not packed with pickles, questionable beef sticks, cheese cubes, maybe even a tiny hamburger? No. And in my opinion, dilly beans should be a necessity in every bloody.

Before we get started, you really do need a water bath canner plus canning kit for this. This is the one I have. Nothing fancy, $32, but it’s a great investment. I suppose with small batches (1-3 pints or so), you could use a large pot and put a steaming basket in there, as long as it allows your cans to sit upright. Honestly, that is way more trouble than it’s worth. canningbook

This is the fantastic book from Liana Krissoff that I based the Dilly Beans recipe from. If you have any interest in canning, and you’re terrified of things like pectin powder and citric acid like I am, get this book.

These dilly beans, as previously stated, pair well with a packed-to-the-brim bloody. They also pair well with grilled cheese and a sense of accomplishment.

Dilly Beans!

Makes 4-5 pints

What you need:

-2 lbs crisp green beans
-4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
-4 cups water
-3 tbsp pure kosher salt
-4-5 sprigs fresh dill
-4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
-8-10 dried hot red chiles
-4-5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

What you do:

1.  Prepare your water-bath canner and jars. To sterilize the jars, just put them (without lids/rings) in the canner, submerged so they are at least 1-inch underneath the water. Boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and keep the jars submerged so they are kept warm (this will prevent them from cracking as we pour the hot vinegar/water mixture into them later). Put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.

2. Trim the ends of your green beans, and make sure they are no longer than 4-4.5 inches long. Portion out your dill, garlic, hot chiles and red pepper flakes so they are evenly distributed and ready to be added quickly to your jars. Set aside.

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3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a 6-8 quart pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Allow to boil for just 30 seconds, and turn off heat. While waiting for vinegar mixture to boil, ladle hot water from the water-bath canner into the bowl with the lids to sterilize them.

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3. Working quickly, divide the green beans among your jars, keeping them upright. Then add 1 sprig dill, 1 clove garlic, 2 chiles and 1 tsp red pepper flakes to each jar.

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4. Pour vinegar mixture into jars (a wide-mouth funnel helps), leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the top. Use a wet paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean, then, using your magnetic lid lifter, remove the flat lids from the bowl and place them on your jars. Put the rings on, just tight enough to keep the flat lids in place, but not so tight that air won’t be able to escape in the water bath.

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5. Place jars in the water-bath canner, and bring water to a low boil/simmer. Process for 10 minutes, then remove your cans with your jar lifter and place on a towel to cool, undisturbed, for 12 hours. Check that the lids have sealed after 1 hour, by pressing down on the center. If it can be pushed down, refrigerate immediately (this means the seal did not hold, and bacteria can get in).

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6. Label your sealed jars and store (wherever, but a cool pantry is always your best bet). With a proper seal, these can technically stay fresh, unopened for years on end. Once you’ve opened them, they’ll stay good in the fridge for a couple of weeks… If you don’t eat them in one sitting.

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This is the BEST time for canning, since it’s still just cool enough that I’m not dying from heat stroke standing over the hot water-bath canner. Don’t be afraid to try it out! Plus, pickles are cool, but jams are even better. More on that later. Now treat yourself to a bloody for all your hard (eh, not really) work.

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Vegan Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno

My brother has been vegan for over a year now. He does it for all the right reasons – the industrialization of food has gotten out of hand, its sustainable, and humans are the only creature on earth that puts their most basic desires over the most basic needs of other creatures.

I’m totally down with the message. I tried it. It’s really hard. For now, I’m just trying to avoid eating other mammals. I figure I’m doing a bit of my part.

But occasionally I do make a super delicious vegan meal. And this one had a bonus cuz I had about 6 pounds of tomatoes from the past two weeks of my CSA boxes (community shared agriculture – its very trendy right now) that I needed to use.

Also, post-Labor Day has gotten me believing its Fall now. It’s still 75 degrees. But Fall is coming (eventually) and that brings brisk weather and brisk weather calls for warm tomato soup.

So we made tomato soup to freeze for Fall/Winter and we vegan-ized it! (Then ate a bowl of it in 75 degree heat with non-vegan toaster oven quesadillas for dipping and a big spoonful of Greek yogurt. Oops.)

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Vegan Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno
(Adapted from Cooking Light’s “Fresh Tomato Soup” recipe from October 2008, “Melanie’s Garden Tomato Soup” recipe from June 1999, and this Oh She Glows recipe – which I also intend to make.)

What you’ll need:
1 head garlic
1-2 jalapeno, mostly seeded and halved (I used one and there was very little heat)
1 large carrot (or 2 medium), chopped
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion (or 2 medium), diced
1/2-1 tbsp dried basil (or fresh if not intending to freeze)
3 pounds garden tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel loose skin from garlic, chop head off of bulb and place on baking sheet along with seeded jalapeno and chopped carrot, drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil. Roast for 35 min (take out jalapeno and carrot when tender, keep garlic in for full 35 min). Let cool 5-10 min, squeeze garlic from bulb and reserve (along with jalapeno and carrot).
2. In a large pot, heat remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and add diced onion, dried basil, and roasted garlic, jalapeno and carrot. Cook 4 min, stirring frequently.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and S&P and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; Simmer 15-20 min. Use immersion blender to blend smooth. (Or process in batches in food processor.)

Serve hot in 1 cup servings with 1-2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream(vegans omit, duh) and fresh basil. Pairs well with microwave quesadillas or grilled cheese and cheap wine.

If freezing, pour into quart-sized freezer-proof containers immersed in ice water. Stir to release heat, cooling slightly and immediately freeze. Will keep in freezer for 4-6 months.

(Side note: Sorry no pics again. I’m working on it.)