Canning Frenzy

Canned beats and dilly beans.
Equipped with a borrowed pressure canner, a canning book from the 70's, the Internet, and and a garden overflowing with fresh, organic produce, the crew at Better Farm took off on a canning project that will provide the people here (and some of our very favorite neighbors and CSA members) with delicious, canned meals for months to come.

Here are a few of the recipes we used. Send us yours at!

Elderberry Jam 
From Recipe Wise-UK Edition
Elderberry Jam is a lovely tasting jam with a beautiful color—but always be sure to use ripe berries to prevent the jam from becoming too tart. We picked wild elderberries along the roadside and spent a week utilizing them in Belgian waffles, scones, and pies. Toward the end of the week when they were perfectly ripened, we froze what we had left after siphoning off some for this jam recipe. To ensure a good set you can use a jam sugar with added pectin, but the lemon juice should help set the jam
  • Ratio of 1:1 elderberries and sugar
  • 1/2 lemon for every 2 cups of elderberries (juice and zest)
  • 1 tsp. butter (or vegan equivalent) for every 2 cups of elderberries

Rinse each elderberry cluster under running water, then drain thoroughly. Work on one small cluster at a time, gently pulling your fingers through and across the clusters to dislodge the berries from the tough stems – only use berries that are completely blue or blue-black, do not use any green berries, or any partially green berries, as they are not ripe and they will spoil the jam. Once you have de-stalked the berries rinse under running water once again. Simmer the elderberries in a dry preserving-pan, slightly bruising them, and stirring them about, with a wooden spoon. When the juice runs put in one-third of the sugar, and let the mixture simmer slowly up to the boiling-point. Break the berries up with the wooden spoon or a masher. When the berries are thoroughly soft and pulpy, take them off the heat and press the sugary pulp through a fine-meshed sieve – no seeds must go through – catching all the juice and pulp in a bowl below. Disclaimer: We let some of the seeds survive for an authentic jam experience! Put the pulp and juice, remaining sugar, lemon juice, butter, and the grated lemon-rind, back into the cleaned preserving pan. Let this simmer for half an hour, stirring and skimming frequently. After 30 minutes, boil for 10 minutes to the setting point. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any scum and impurities from the surface using a slotted spoon. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the Elderberry Jam into warmed sterilized jars and seal. Leave the jars to cool completely, then label and store in a cool, dark place.

Pickled Beets
  • 1 pound small beets (about 7 beets) 
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
Rinse out your canner, put the rack in the bottom, and fill it  with hot tap water. Put it on the stove over low heat just to get it heating up for later on. Meanwhile, leave root and 1-inch stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool slightly. Trim off beet roots; rub off skins. Thinly slice beets; place in a large bowl. Combine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Pour vinegar mixture over beets; then pour into glass Mason jars. Allow for 1/2 inch of headspace in the top of the jar. Put the lids on each jar and seal them by putting a ring on and screwing it down snugly (but not with all your might, just "snug").Put the jars in the canner and the lid on the canner. Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner.  Make sure the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Process for thirty minutes. You can use either a plain water bath canner OR a pressure canner, since the vinegar adds so much acidity (if you can vegetables other than tomatoes without adding vinegar, you must use a pressure canner).

Dilly Beans
From Simply Canning

Note: As with the pickled beets, using vinegar in the recipe negates the need to use a pressure canner. If you are making these recipes without the vinegar, the food is too acidic to not use a pressure canner. Always keep this in mind in order to ensure food safety!

  • Green Beans - enough to make 4 pints or about 2 pounds
  • 4 sprigs of fresh dill weed or 4 heads of dill.
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional) 
Wash beans - snap off ends and snap (break or cut) to jar length. Add sprig of dill weed (or head of dill) (or 1 tsp dill seeds) and 1 garlic clove to each jar. if you like spicy try adding 1/8 tsp cayenne to each jar. Pack each jar with beans length ways. You can also cut your beans short and pack them that way. I just think it looks nice to have them long and lengthways. An easy way to do this is to tip the jar in your hand and fill. This way the beans stack nicely. Combine -vinegar, water and salt to make the pickling solution or brine.  Bring this to a boil. The best way to do this is in a stainless steel tea pot. It makes it so easy to just pour the brine into each jar without having to use  a ladle. Turn the heat off your brine and when bubbling stops, cover beans with pickling solution, leaving 1/4 inch head space. emove air bubbles with a plastic knife or other small tool. Just push the tool gently between the dilly beans moving things around just enough to let the air bubbles rise. There is a tool you can buy specifically for this purpose, but an orange peeler is what I always turn to. It just fits perfectly and is usually hand. Wipe rims clean, you don't want any pickling solution or bean bits on the rim of the jar.  It may interfere with the sealing process.  Then... process for 10 minutes per quart.


We're entering peak production out in the garden, which means an overabundance of certain foods. Not a problem, if you're willing to spend a little time in the kitchen canning, freezing, blending, cooking, and blanching. The time spent is well worth it, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars at the grocery store over winter months on jarred, canned, and fresh produce.

In the last week, here are the foods we've prepared for freezing and canning:
  • Zucchini Bread (one loaf out on the counter, the rest in the freezer)
  • Basil-Arugula Pesto
  • Dilly Beans (canned)
  • Cucumbers (canned)
  • Zucchinis (blanched and frozen)
  • Zucchini Pancakes
Wherever possible, we used 100 percent ingredients from our own gardens, including dill and garlic. Some of the recipes we used are below!


5 qt. water
1 qt. vinegar
5 c. sugar
1 c. pickling salt
Sliced cucumbers
Dill heads
Garlic buds
This recipe makes a sweet pickle similar to bread and butter pickles.Boil water, vinegar, sugar and salt; add sliced lengthwise cucumbers 1 quart at a time to boiling solution until cucumbers change color.
Pack in jar. Put 2 garlic and 1 dill head per quart. Cover with boiling solution, seal jars.
Note: Revised canning methods call for processing quart jars 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Consult your favorite canning reference for more details on proper canning techniques.

adapted from So Easy to Preserve
2 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit your jars (I had to trim mine a bit more after taking the photo you see above)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used nearly two, but tread carefully here if you’re not a spice person)
4 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5%)
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup pickling salt (use a bit more if you’ve only got kosher)
Prep your canning pot by inserting a rack to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, place pint jars in (wide-mouth pints work best here. A 12 ounce jelly jar is also nice, as it’s a bit taller than a standard pint and makes for less trimming) and fill it with water. Bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Wash and trim your beans so that they fit in your jar. If you have particularly long beans, your best bet is to cut them in half, although by doing so, you do lose the visual appeal of having all the beans standing at attending.
Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While it’s heating up, pack your beans into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon dill seeds.
Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that 1/2 inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles from jar by running it around the interior of the jar. Wipe the rims and apply the lids (which have been sitting in a small saucepan of water at a mere simmer for at least ten minutes in order to soften the sealing compound) and rings.
Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember that you don’t start timing until the pot has come to a roiling boil).
These beans want to hang out for a least two weeks before eating, to thoroughly develop their flavor.

1.5 cups of packed basil leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup packed arugula leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins. Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown.
Food processor method (the fast way): Combine the basil, arugula, salt, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Mortar and pestle method: Combine the nuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.


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.

Better Farm Scores a Spot on the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour

Better Farm has been invited to take part in this year's 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour, a project undertaken by the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council that maps and compiles information about local farms in a free brochure. Visitors can follow the map, listen on cell phones to an audio tour, and stop in at the local operations. Similar to historic buildings tours or wine trails, the 1000 Islands Agricultural Tour allows you to sample local wines, veggies, fruits, honey, cheeses, ciders, and more—and visit with unbelievably adorable barnyard animals, alpacas, horses—and now, all the diverse, creative creatures calling Better Farm home.

When you visit the ag tour's website, be sure to check out our page! And don't forget to order a brochure—the weekend-long ag open house is slated for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and 12-4 p.m. Sunday, July 22. That event, open to the public, is designed to promote the agricultural industry throughout Jefferson County. It's a great chance to visit a number of local family farms, including but not limited to dairy, livestock, fruit and vegetable farms, wineries, butcher shops, and farm supply businesses. Each location will have a special, weekend-long feature going on especially for that event. Not to be missed!

For those of you who haven't stopped by Better Farm yet, that will be a perfect weekend to see what our synthesis of sustainability and creative expression looks like. The open house is supported by Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation, the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, and the Jefferson County Chapter of Adirondack Harvest.
Farms and agricultural businesses interested in participating can go to or to download a participation form.  The application deadline is March 30. To order a free brochure of the farms included in the tour, click here.

Better Farm's 2012 Sustainability Internship Features New Initiatives

Better Farm's sustainability internship program has since its inception in 2010 welcomed a dozen individuals from all over the world to join us in our efforts to live more in tandem with natural earth systems. Whether building raised beds, wiring for solar panels, implementing a rainwater harvesting system, serving the community, or gardening organically, our internship program has equipped people of all ages and backgrounds with practical skills they can bring back to their hometowns and neighborhoods to continue their journeys and inspire their friends and families to incorporate natural earth systems into their daily routines.

We will continue all those initiatives into 2012, and plan to expand our organic herb, flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens. We'll also be revamping certain elements of the 2012 season to include (check back on the application page for more updates in the coming weeks!):

  • Poultry Care—We plan to participate in the New York State DEC's Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program, which means Better Farm's interns will try their hand at raising chicks, monitoring their health, and releasing them into the wild when they are eight weeks old. We will also be adding some more hens to our chicken flock!
  • New Workshops!—Knitting, sauna construction, rainwater-fed outdoor showers, earthships, and DIY chicken coops are just some of the on-site workshops we're slating in 2012. Stay tuned for specific dates!
  • Tree Planting Initiatives—We will be continuing our work to plant several hundred black walnut trees on the property here, and will be expanding our planting efforts by linking up with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program, which would provide interns here with 50 seedlings to nurture and grow. 
  • Farm to Table—Better Farm's interns will put on one large farm-to-table dinner party in September, and work throughout the summer to integrate home-grown, local food into soup kitchens, supper clubs, and local restaurants. Our interns will also make strides in researching and designing our budding delivery CSA program, due to launch in 2015.
  • Homesteading Tips—We're going to team the 2012 interns up with seasoned locals to learn about canning, freezing, living off the land, and more. Stay tuned for the weekly rotating schedule!
  • Dragonfly Surveying Initiative—Better Farm has volunteered to survey dragonflies on the property during peak summer months and submit that data to a statewide dragonfly and damselfly survey. Information collected by interns here will help guide conservation activities beneficial to those species that are in greatest need of such efforts.
  • Better Farm's 2012 Local Farm Outreach Program—In 2012, we'll be upping our community outreach efforts to include local farms. Our interns will spend all or part of one day each week at a different local farm to learn about the processes involved with milking dairy cows, grooming horses, raising alpacas, harvesting maple syrup, rearing bees, and more.
  • Festival Season Participation—Better Farm's interns will help coordinate, organize, and present at the summer festivals in the North Country, including: Redwood's First Annual Dandelion Wine Festival, the Keith Brabant Memorial Music Scholarship Festival, North Country Arts Council's Summer Arts Festival, and more.
We'll continue updating you with our plans as we get closer to spring! To learn more about Better Farm's sustainability internship program or to apply, click here.

How to Afford Better Food

Originally published at Mother Earth News

There’s growing evidence that industrial food just ain’t what it oughta be. Lucky for us, the path to super-nutritious food at affordable prices offers many entry points. We’ll pilot you through the diverse options in this guide to shopping smart and eating better food.
Buy In Season
WHY? Like most goods and services, foods cost less when they’re abundant. Eat foods during their peak season for scaled-down price plus amped-up quality. Foods that get to you quickly lose less flavor and nutrients, and you can enjoy varieties of produce that can’t survive long-distance shipping. Buying in-season foods directly from farmers is the easiest way to save money on better food — especially at the end of market day, and especially if you’re willing to buy less-than-perfect items. Buying in season is also the best way to get good prices on more-expensive organic produce. 

HOW? Arm yourself with strategies for eating fresh during any season with the comprehensive resources we’ve compiled for you on our website at How to Eat Seasonally. 

Buy Locally
WHY? When you spend $1 on supermarket food, not much of it goes to the actual producer. Some of your dollar goes to the person who grew it, while some goes to the person who picked it. Some goes to the companies who processed, packaged and transported it, and some to the firm that designed the packaging and advertising. Finally, some of your dollar ends up in the hands of the grocery store owner, and also in the hands of the store’s employees. The fewer middlemen, the less the seller will have to charge you.

HOW? Find farms, restaurants, co-ops, farmers markets and other great local-food resources on our website (see How to Find Local Food and Farmers). In addition, locally owned specialty shops can often help you find things that local farmers can’t grow, such as fresh-roasted coffee.

Join Forces With Community Supported Agriculture
WHY? Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs used to be charming novelties in certain neighborhoods that enjoyed eco-abundance, but their huge surge in popularity in recent years means CSA programs are now available nationwide — more than 4,000 are listed in the Local Harvest database. A CSA program is essentially a local-farm subscription service, in which a group pays the farmer directly for the food she delivers. You can save money on super-fresh, high-quality produce, and many CSAs also offer meat, eggs, dairy, honey, flowers and herbs. Some offer free or lower-cost subscriptions to those who donate time or qualify for low-income shares.

HOW? Find a CSA program in your area through the Robyn Van En Center or Local Harvest and start buying better food now.

Cook Your Own Food
WHY? The absolute fastest route to grocery savings is the path to your kitchen. Avoid eating out or buying packaged foods by cooking your own meals from whole, unprocessed ingredients. Simple breakfasts of whole grains, fruit and eggs eaten at home will kick-start your day with long-lasting energy. Take your own lunch to work or school for a meal guaranteed to be much more flavorful than fast-food or vending machine fare. Save time at dinner by spreading the work among family members and prepping double batches of dinners that freeze well. And save money all around by making your own staples, such as stock, pasta sauce, butter, condiments, yogurt and many others. You'll learn quickly that you can make better food than any of those packaged versions at the grocery store.

Did you know you could save at least half the cost of fancy fresh cheese by making it yourself? Plus it’s fun, I promise. And what about fancy artisan bread? Whoa nelly! Delicious rustic loaves from fine bakeries can cost up to $7 a loaf, but you can make your own loaves of comparable quality — again, I promise — for about 50 cents each. You’ll also be able to use more nutritious flour made with whole grains. Really serious about getting high-quality food at awesome prices? Grind your own grains for peak freshness and flavor. Grain mills start around $25 (though some nicer ones are in the hundreds), and if you buy 50-pound bags of whole grains, you could make that back with your first grain purchase.

HOW? Just search for “whole grains” at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website, and keep reading for links to several fabulous homemade bread recipes, plus easy tips to keep more lunch money in your pocket. Check out a long list of our reader’s excellent grocery budget tips in How Do You Save Money on Groceries? and while you’re on our website, visit our Real Food page for all kinds of recipes and cooking information. 

Grow Your Own Food 

WHY? A sure way to rock your world with superior flavor and better nutrition, and still save money, is by growing your own food. Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping, saved $700 on groceries in 2008 when she grew a simple, 100-square-foot garden. Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, saved $2,000 from a 1,500-square-foot plot in 2009. Just think — grocery prices are even higher now.

Accumulating evidence is revealing the sad truth that today’s commercial fruits, veggies and grains contain fewer nutrients than their counterparts of yore, and many heirloom varieties are nutritionally superior to modern hybrids. Growing food yourself — with time-tested heirloom varieties, in healthy soil — is the best way to get those nutrients back into your diet.

If you’re unsure, start small! Try radishes, greens, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes to start. Even a modest herb garden could save you big bucks, as fresh herbs are usually pricey. If you’re adventurous, start big! You can grow whopping quantities of food by using your front yard, too (if your community doesn't forbid it). Many edibles, such as rainbow chard and climbing beans, are as beautiful as they are useful. No sun? Join one of the 18,000 community gardens dotted all over North America. Live in an apartment? You may be lucky enough to find a rooftop garden sprouting up near you.

HOW? Learn to grow better food and find gardens that need you with our deep archives (see Learn to Grow Food).

Preserve Your Own Food
WHY? Even if you’re not growing food yourself, you can save up to 75 percent on home-canned and up to 80 percent on home-frozen foods if you buy the produce fresh during peak season. They’ll taste better than store-bought convenience foods to boot.

Drying foods is another way to concentrate flavor and nutrition. Dried fruits and veggies make wonderful, easy snacks, and you can save quite a bit on pricey mushrooms by buying them when you spot a sale, then drying them yourself to reconstitute later.

HOW? Search for “canning,” “drying” and “freezing” at MOTHER EARTH NEWS online to find plenty of articles about the basics. Download our canning app for smartphones and tablets at Free MOTHER EARTH NEWS How to Can App. You can learn how to ferment delicious beverages at home, too (see Home Brewing), and you’ll find a neat kit for a hybrid solar/electric food dryer at All About the SunWorks Solar Food Dryer Kit.

 Buy In Bulk
WHY? The price differences between packaged foods and plain, whole foods sold in bulk can be astounding. For example, you can save about 50 percent on pasta and peanut butter, and up to 70 percent on oats and popcorn. You may be surprised at how much you can find in bulk sections these days — everything from spices, herbs, tea and coffee to beans, grains, flour, olive oil and more. Buying clubs and food co-ops also offer tremendous savings to grocery shoppers who don’t mind planning ahead and working with others.

HOW? Look for the bulk section in your grocery or natural foods store. Connect with a food co-op or buying club through Coop Directory Service or United Buying Clubs. Go to Dry Goods and Staples: Costs for Packaged vs. Case vs. Bulk to see a detailed look at the cost savings of bulk items. See Get to Know the Wonder-Working, Timesaving Pressure Cooker to learn how you can save even more by preparing foods efficiently with a pressure cooker.

Choose Wisely
WHY? Supporting a reduction in our nation’s pesticide dependence by choosing organic foods is worthwhile — the effects of industrial, chemical-based agriculture reach much further than what we ingest as individuals and the effects it has on our personal health. But sometimes we must make strictly budget-conscious decisions. If you can only access organically grown food some of the time, you’ll want to make the best choices. For example, fruits with permeable skin, such as strawberries, absorb more chemicals than thick-skinned onions and eggplants. And did you know that apples and celery top the list of pesticide-laden foods, while mushrooms and sweet potatoes are consistently clean?

HOW? The Environmental Working Group maintains the most up-to-date list of which conventionally grown foods are likely to be contaminated with pesticides and which are safest to eat: EWG’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Go Grass-Fed
WHY? Foods from animals that were raised humanely on healthy pastures are no doubt more expensive than their factory-farmed counterparts, but that cost is coming down as more consumers become aware of the multiple benefits (tell your friends!). Along with top-notch flavor, pastured products offer better nutrition than industrial animal products. You can save money by choosing cuts of meat that are less expensive but still healthy and flavorful, such as bone-in chuck roasts, shoulder and shank cuts, round roasts, stew meat, and organ meats. You can also save a bundle by buying larger portions directly from the farmer, or by choosing to pay for what you value and simply eating meat less often. You might also consider investing in a deep freezer so you can store that quarter of a cow, half a pig or whole lamb that will provide many meals. Or split a large meat purchase with friends.

HOW? Use Eatwild to find farms and butchers in your area, or check with your local county extension for potential sources. For more information on sourcing and cooking all cuts of grass-fed meat, check out Good Meat by Deborah Krasner and Pasture Perfect by Jo Robinson.

Raise Your Own Animals
WHY? Pastured meat, eggs and dairy are tremendously more nutritious than their industrially farmed versions. The meats are leaner and have a fatty-acid profile that helps combat heart disease rather than contributing to it. Pastured eggs also contain these beneficial omega fatty acids, plus vitamins and minerals that are deficient in factory farmed eggs, including vitamin D, which many Americans may not realize they are lacking. Most importantly, homegrown meats usually taste better than products that come from the animals raised in crowded, stressful conditions in feedlots and factory farms.

Taking care of chickens is not much more complicated or expensive than taking care of a dog, and many urban and suburban areas are now allowing residents to do so. Plan on harvesting about one egg per hen per day. Sustainable agriculture expert Gwen Roland has raised her own flavorful broiler chickens at a cost of only $1 per pound of meat produced. If you decide to keep a dairy cow and calf, you’ll spend up to a couple grand, but will recoup between $4,000 and $6,000 in delicious, healthy grass-fed milk and beef. Plus, you’ll be among the lucky few who truly understand all that is required to bring meat to our tables.

HOW? Learn about grass-based farming at Choosing Natural, Grass-fed Meat and The Chicken and Egg Page. You’ll also find a wealth of information about raising pastured animals through one of our favorite magazines, The Stockman Grass Farmer, and via the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

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.

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.

1 Comment

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.