Dilly Beans – Preserving the Summer Bounty


One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste of summer long after the first snow flies, is by opening a jar of Dilly Beans, a recipe from a cult classic book on fermentation – Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz.

A jar of these is great to break open when friends stop by, take to a potluck or give as a holiday gift. With local green beans in full bloom right now, make the most of this short growing season and store some for the winter ahead.

The following is an excerpt from Wild Fermentation. It has been adapted for the Web by Chelsea Green Publishing, publishers of this fabulous book.

How to Make Dilly Beans
Pickling food in vinegar is not a fermentation process. In brine pickling, vegetables are preserved by lactic acid, which is produced by the action of microorganisms on the vegetables. Vinegar pickling makes use of a fermented product, vinegar, but the acidity of the vinegar prevents microorganism action. Vinegar pickles contain no live cultures.

According to Keeping Food Fresh, a book by Terre Vivante, a French eco-education center focused on organic gardening and preservation of Old World food-preservation techniques, “Pickles were always lacto-fermented in times past, and then transferred to vinegar solely to stabilize them for commercial purposes.” Indeed, the great advantage that vinegar pickling has over lacto-fermentation pickling, is that vinegar pickles will last forever (well, almost), while brined pickles will last for weeks or months, but rarely for years, and definitely not forever.

TIMEFRAME: 6 weeks


Sealable canning jars: 1 1⁄2 pint/750 milliliter size is best, as its height perfectly accommodates the length of string beans (quart jars work fine too.)

String beans
Salt (kosher or sea salt)
Whole dried chili peppers
Celery seed
Fresh dill (flowering tops best, or leaves)
White distilled vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider vinegar)

Guesstimate how many jars you’ll fill with the string beans you have. Thoroughly clean jars and line them up.

Into each jar, place:
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of salt
1 whole red chili pepper
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 milliliters) of celery seed
1 flowering dill top or small bunch of dill leaves

Then fill the jar with beans standing on end, stuffing them as tightly as you can into the jar.

For each jar you have filled, measure 1 cup (250 milliliters) of vinegar and 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water. Boil the vinegar-water mixture, then pour it into the jars over the beans and spices, to ½ inch (1 centimeter) from the top of each jar.

Seal the jars and place them in a large pot of boiling water for a 10-minute heat processing.

Leave the dilly beans for at least 6 weeks for the flavors to meld, then open jars as desired and enjoy. Heat-processed pickles can be stored for years without refrigeration.

Like this blog post by the Heirloom Foodie?  Chances are you’ll also like her post about Cooking with lavender from local growers Part I,  Cooking with lavender Part II (with video),  Missoula’s Clarkfork River MarketLocal Grass-Finished Beef and Growing Good Eats in the Garden City.  Please leave comments/questions in the Facebook comment section below–and help us spread the Heirloom Foodie  love by clicking the +1 button.


Kristen has been the publisher of edibleMISSOULA magazine for the past 4 years, a publication celebrating the bounty of local seasonal foods and farming. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. She sits on the board of the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition of Missoula County (CFAC) and serves on the Montana Food Systems Council; as well as being a strong advocate for more localized and sustainable food system. She is working on a new venture – the Heirloom Projectexploring traditional foods, farming & modern homemaking.