Better Farmers do the Can-Can

Sarah and I this morning wandered out to Better Farm's garden to see what three days of nearly constant rain had done to the fruits and veggies.
Holy cow. Armed with more string beans and cukes than we knew what to do with (yet again), we decided to finally take a crack at canning. The folks up here routinely can their excess fruits and veggies from their gardens; a practice begun in early-19th century France by one Nicolas Appert.

Having never tried to can before, we started doing our research; first reading up on what canning is all about, scooping up a few recipes from altruistic Redwood residents, and finally nabbing a few weeks ago a Ball brand "Home Canning Discovery Kit". With a couple morning hours to spare, Sarah and I got started today on some pickles and dilly beans. Here are step-by-step instructions and photos. Please share your own recipes in the comments section, or e-mail them to
Equipment Every Canner Needs
  • Boiling -Water Canner (A big spaghetti or lobster pot will do)
  • Canning Jars
  • Lids and Bands
  • Canning Salt (not table salt)
  • Various spices, veggies, and fruit
And now for the recipes... 

Dill Pickle Sandwich Slices\
  • 2 Tbsp pickling spices
  • 2 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. pickling salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 3 heads fresh dill
  • 8 c. sliced, trimmed pickling cucumbers (1/4 inch slices)
  1. Prepare stockpot/canner and jars (for information on how to do this click here.)
  2. Tie pickling spices in cheesecloth or other fabric to create a spice bag.
  3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, pickling salt, and spice bag in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Reduce heat and boil for 15 minutes.
  4. Put 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, and 1 head of dill into each jar. Pack cuke slices into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  5. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wip rim and center lid on jar. Screw band until fingertip-tight.
  6. Process filled jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove stockpot lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool and store.

Dilly Beans
2 lbs. green beans
1/4 c. canning salt
2 1/2 c. vinegar
2 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cloes garlic
4 heads of dill or dry dill
  1. Trim beans. Combine salt, vinegar, and water in large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Pack beans into hot jars lengthwise, leaving 1/4 in. headspace.
  3. Add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic, and 1 head dill to each pint (double amount for a quart jar).
  4. Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 in. headspace.
  5. Remove air bubbles.
  6. Process 10 minutes in boiling water.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.