In The Garden: Pickles & Dilly Beans

I feel like the only appropriate way to start this post is with an admission: I have no idea what the eff I’m doing in the kitchen.

Well, wait. I’m actually a decent cook– you don’t grow up in a big Italian family without knowing how to make a damn good meatball– and I know how to do lots of other things in the kitchen too…like installing faucets. But my kitchen-related knowledge does not extend so far as that ol’ farm staple: canning.

However, one of my very favorite things about being human– aside from opposable thumbs and the ability to wield a hammer– is that just because you don’t know what the eff you’re doing, doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

The first lesson I learned is that canning doesn’t start in late August like I thought it did (thanks to growing nothing but five tomato plants and some green beans last year.) Canning starts pretty much as soon as things start growing.

While strawberry season is over (and I have eight jars of jam to prove it), tomato and cucuber season has just started. I have fifteen tomato plants this year, but only one of them is producing ripe cherry tomatoes right now, and since I haven’t had a tomato fresh from the garden for a good eight months, each one of these that I find is a tiny delicious surprise. This is how I like to eat them…


Cut an X in the bottom, dip in sea salt. Heaven.

I’ll be swimming in these babies soon, but in the meantime I realized I was going to have a major green vegetable haul to deal with. Saturday morning I pulled some leaves back on one of my cucumber plants and found this…


The first thing that went through my head was “Holy shit, I need to make some pickles.”

I’ve never actually made a pickle before, so this should be interesting. I’ve eaten a truckload of them though, so that totally counts for something, right? No?

So I gathered my cukes (and some green beans while I was at it, because I hear you can make “dilly beans” by pickling them in the same brine) and spent my Sunday night covered in paint and canning the shit out of some vegetables.


Some snapshots of the process…






The thing I like least about canning is that if you don’t have tried and true recipes you have no idea if all that work you just did is worth it. I’m about 50/50 on deliciousness (last year’s salsa) and not-so-deliciousness (last year’s applesauce).

I combined two recipes for this pickling adventure, and while I’ll note what I did here, these could be disgusting for all I know. (I used legitimate pickle recipes from this site and this book to make my own.)

Here’s what I used:

  • 4 cups Distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 Tbsp salt

Brought to a boil…

And in each jar:

  • 2 cloves homegrown garlic (slightly crushed)
  • 1/4 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dill seed
  • 1/4 tsp or less of celery seed

Plus the cukes or green beans, covered with the brine, and then processed for 10 minutes using the boiling water method. Probably I won’t die of botulism.

Since I plan to do a lot of canning with a lot of recipes this year (this is definitely going to be my Sunday ritual) I added tags with canning date and recipe info on the back so I can judge what worked best later on. Slices or spears? More or less pepercorns? It’s all an art.

I put one jar in the fridge straightaway and plan to try them in a couple of weeks to see how things turned out. Anyone have awesome pickle recipes?

14 Responses

  1. I love to pickle shit! Here’s my favorite recipe:
    4 cups vinegar (I usually do 2 cups distilled and 2 cups raw apple cider)
    4 cups water
    4 tbsp sea salt
    2 tbsp sugar (to cut the acidity a bit…doesn’t make them sweet)
    In each quart-sized jar I put two cloves of garlic and one teaspoon of each of the following: crushed red pepper, black peppercorns, mustard seed, dill seed

    I make mine as refrigerator pickles because my pantry is not big enough to store loads of jars. Plus, I eat them pretty fast! They’re spicy and garlicky!

  2. So far these two are my go to for the pickling: (Spices & method)

    Pickling Spice

    2 tablespoons mustard seed
    1 ½ tablespoons whole allspice (you can use 1-2 Tblsp)
    2 teaspoons coriander (add it if you’d like, it’s in most mixes)
    ½ teaspoon whole cloves
    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (up to 1 tsp)
    4 bay leaves, crumbled (I don’t think you can add too many of these, add more if you’d like)
    1 cinnamon stick, 2-2 1/2″, crushed
    ½ teaspoon celery seed-optional
    1 teaspoon black peppercorns

    Break up cinnamon, tear bay leaves into bits, mix all, store in an airtight container. This makes approx 4 Tbsp, enough for 2 quart jars of pickles. If there’s a little mix left over, just add it to your pickle jar and use it up.

    Method:(From Nourished Kitchen)

    Hands down LOVE these things. I also use these spices in pickled eggs.

  3. SO SMART to label them with the recipe so that you can tweak it next time!!!!

    I made my first batch of pickles last year and they all turned to mush. The taste wasn’t bad but they would fall apart in my hands! NASTY!

    I was told to add alum. Anyone have any suggestions?

    1. I was worried about mushy pickles too! I read two different things… one was to layer ice and salt with the cukes and let them sit for a couple of hours, and the other was to just put them in an ice bath for anywhere from 2 hours to overnight. None of my recipes had alum, but I’ll do almost anything to keep the pickles crunchy!

  4. I do something similar to Ryan’s for a refrigerator pickle except I also add turmeric. I don’t really measure anything, either. Just fill up the jar (32 oz). When the pickles were all used up, it happened to be St. Patrick’s Day and I used the brine in my corned beef along with some Guinness and it turned out amazing….

  5. They look & sound tasty! No experience canning here, so I am following your adventure!

  6. So I don’t have a great pickle recipe, but I’ll tell you this…pickle shots are amazing. When you finish eating your pickles – mix the brine with vodka (50/50 ratio) and whip out some shot glasses. Delicious!

  7. I attempted to can homemade chicken soup as Christmas gifts for my grandparents one year. Never gave it to them out of fear I’d give them botulism. It sat in a cabinet for a couple years and then got thrown out. I always wonder how it tasted when all was said & done.

  8. Fear factor has ruined cherry tomatoes for me. When I was a kid I hated pickles but now that I’m an adult I like them.

  9. my cucumbers came in WAY faster this year then I expected them to, it’s like they popped up overnight… my goal is to grow this year and eat/share it all, and if that’s a success then I will grow MORE next year and can. So far cucumbers and herbs are freaking delicious, and by this weekend I should be able to bite right into a tomato too. Hope your recipes turn out well!! 🙂

  10. For crunchy pickles (they don’t stay that way long but it somewhat helps) add grape leaves. I still haven’t tried a horseradish leaf for the same purpose mainly because I didn’t have one when I made pickle.

    As for shots, a pub over here offers Picklebacks. 1 shot of Jameson alongside 1 shot of home made pickle juice. I am not a Jameson kind of girl but a Pickleback? Pretty tasty!

  11. I was looking up pickling peppers the other day a nd ran across the note that if you cut off the flower end of the cucumber, the pickles will be crisper. There is an enzyme there that causes mush over time.

    When you are ready for applesauce recipies, let us know. That was what we canned every year growing up. Mine is chunky and tastes like the middle of an apple pie. 🙂

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