Three days after I arrived home from Colorado I got an emergency phone call from the After School Coordinator. One of the students had picked a backpack full of beans from the garden. Could I help put them up as dilly beans if the After School Program provided all the needed supplies? Dilly beans are crisp pickled beans with just the right balance of salty and tart flavor and a hint of garlicky kosher pickle flavor. I had made dilly beans every autumn for years with my multi-age class, so I accepted the challenge. The next day, after school, I met with ten sixth graders who were eager to help put up the beans.
Some of these students had vague recollections of how to assemble the jars of beans for processing. They had been part of my dilly bean assembly line as first graders. Now, as sixth graders, they could read the recipe and multiply fractions of ingredients to double it. Fortunately we had the use of my old classroom. It boasts a fully equipped kitchen. The sixth graders got right to work, peeling garlic (daring each other to try some raw), washing and drying beans, and stuffing them into jars.
The students measured brine ingredients and I ladled it into the filled jars when it was boiling hot. I tried a new technique for sterilizing jars, having just returned from the land of bottle sterilization. We filled each washed jar with water and put it in the microwave oven for 4 minutes. Jars and caps must be sterilized before filling. I brought the half dozen quarts home with me to process. Processing ensures a good seal. Once water is boiling in the processor, jars are submerged an inch below the surface. When boiling starts again, the jars should be processed for ten minutes. After they are taken out of the boiling water, caps will cool with a ‘pop,’ indicating a good seal. I did lose one jar in the processing. You can see the dill seeds swimming on the surface of the water bath.The jars will need two weeks in a cool dark place to achieve full flavor. We’ll be trying our dilly bean this coming week. Some of the photos in section were taken a few years ago and many of these students are off to middle school. I wanted to give a sense of what an enjoyable team project this can be for an entire class. The Westminster West School happened to be making dilly beans on the same day we made them this year. Congratulations, West West!
Here’s a copy of the dilly bean recipe: