Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canning Dilly Beans

Yesterday I had a day off (whoo whoo), and so did Eric. A little end of the summer very mini vacay at home.
And what better way to spend a day off than canning…eh? (I may be able to think of a few ways…)
I’ve gotten to the point where I take pictures of everything…just in case I can use them later for a blog post.  My husband will actually ask me, “Do you think you should take pictures of this?”
Now that’s love, I tell ya.
My kids just think I’m insane…I probably am.
It would not be canning season in this house if we didn’t include umpteen jars or Dilly Beans. My husband feels we need 52 jars…one a week until next summer rolls around. I don’t think we’ve ever done that many, and it’s doubtful we will this year. But I can try to humor him…right?
So, after snapping away while we prepared and canned some beans, I uploaded a pic of our pretty, bean filled jars and asked my Facebook buddies if they wanted to know how to can Dilly Beans…
and I got a huge “yes” response! (I really thought that it would be one of those Facebook posts that sat there and everyone ignored…AWKWARD!) Pleasantly surprised I was.

Dilly Beans

First, a little info on canning in general…

Dilly Beans 1

You will benefit greatly from a canning utensil set like the one pictured above. We got ours a few years ago at Meijer…but I am sure they have them at Walmart (which I avoid at all cost) or Target. Here is the same one we have, available from Amazon.
The funnel is used to pour boiling liquid into the jars without a mess. I will be honest…I still make one.
The head spacer tool gives you a quick gauge of how much room there is between the contents and the top of the jar. When you are canning you must leave space for the liquid to boil in the jars while processing. It is also important that your beans (or whatever) aren't crammed against the lid of the jar. This tool can also be used to rid the jars of air that gets trapped between your veggies.
A magnet is used to pick the lids out of boiling water, which is done to sterilize them, and place them on the jar.
Finally, the jar grabber…pretty self-explanatory. You NEED this to grab the processed jars out of the boiling hot water bath. If you don’t have any other tools…you MUST have this one!

Dilly Beans 2.2

Next you will need a big pot for processing your jars, preferably with a rack for lowering them gently into the boiling water bath. Again, here is an example from Amazon. I have also seen these at Bed Bath and Beyond for under $30.
A small pot of boiling water for lids.
And, for this particular recipe, a pot to prepare the pickling liquid for the beans.

Dilly Beans 2.1

Obviously, you will need jars and lids.  Wide mouth pint jars are best for this recipe.
It is important that your jars are sterilized before you begin. A run in a hot dishwasher will do the trick. Unfortunately, we do not have a dishwasher. So we take turns scalding ourselves by washing them in ridiculously hot water, trying to make sure ours are as sanitary as possible, then pour boiling water over top.  This is humorous to watch…trust me.
A few other things that you will need before you start canning:
Lots of dishtowels
A timer

Let’s get to the Dilly Beans!

Dilly Beans 1.1

Yeah…this is the recipe we use.
It is a copy from the Kerr Kitchen Cookbook. Which belongs to my mom, and is apparently a VERY hot commodity…because I went to buy it on eBay (it is out of print)…the cheapest one was over $20, and the most expensive was over a $100! My mom’s has a Kmart price tag on it that says $3.99! But…it is the Holy Grail of canning in this family…so…we use copies from her book.
Copies that were recently munched on by an overgrown lab/hound with anxiety issues.

The recipe as I am writing it will make 7 pints of beans. You will also notice (if you can read the original) that we double the garlic, which I tend to ALWAYS do with every recipe I make, and add a wee bit more heat with some extra pepper flakes.

Dilly Beans
4-5 pounds of fresh green beans
14 heads of fresh dill
14 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 cup of white vinegar (labeled 5% acidity)
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of pickling salt (we use kosher)
1 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes.

First, you will need to wash your beans thoroughly, and drain them.

Dilly Beans 2
Cut them to 4 inches each. My hubby made this handy-dandy gadget for measuring beans.
We have two of them.
One for each of us.
I told you…he LOVES him some Dilly Beans…Ha!
He is also extremely anal retentive and can’t quite tamp down the hint of engineer left in him from our previous life.

Dilly Beans 3

Boy do I love that man, though…anal tendencies and all. Not many men will stay up half the night canning with their wives (or eat up half a day making bean cutting jigs). ♥♥♥

Now is the best time to fill your canner with water and start the heating process. We fill ours until it is about 5 or 6 inches from the top. This leaves room to drop the jars into the water bath without spillage.

Dilly Beans 4

Next, peel your garlic.

Dilly Beans 5

Gather and rinse your dill.

Dilly Beans 6

Place 2 heads of dill and 2 cloves of garlic in each of 7 sterilized, wide moth pint mason jars.
(In the background do you see a hint of a yummy post to come?)

Dilly Beans 6.1

At this point we start boiling water in our small saucepan for the sterilization of the lids.

Dilly Beans 10

Once that is heating, we move on to the pickling liquid. Pour vinegar, water, salt and pepper flakes into a large pot, and bring to a boil over medium heat as you move on to the next step.

Dilly Beans 7

This is my least, and possibly my husband’s favorite, part…cramming, I mean placing, the beans into jars.

Dilly Beans 8.1

You want to make sure they are even, and packed firmly together.

Dilly Beans 8

Be careful not to jam them in too forcefully…they break easily.

Dilloy Beans 9

Once your jars are full…

Dilly Beans 13

we sit and wait for everything to boil.
By the time you are finished getting your beans into the jars, everything should be ready. But we (my husband…always blame the husband) forgot to turn on the burners…oops!
Add 7 lids to the small pan of boiling water.

Time to fill the jars…
It is good to have a dish towel underneath them if you are worried about spilling.

Dilly Beans 11

Fill each jar with liquid, leaving a half inch of head space…the distance between the layer of liquid and the top of the jar.

Dilly Beans 12

Run your head space tool (which should be non-metallic) along the sides of your jar to release any trapped air bubbles. You may need to add a bit more liquid afterwards.
Wipe down the rims and the threads around the jar with a clean towel.
Using your magnet tool, place lids on jars, directly from boiling water. (Sorry…I forgot to take pictures of this…we were at a critical point and the pressure was ridiculous…JUST KIDDING! This is soooo not hard.)

Dilly Beans 14

Twist your lid bands firmly in place, but not too tight.

Dilly Beans 15

Place your jars into the canner rack, and slowly lower it into the boiling water. IMPORTANT: The water MUST be boiling before you lower the jars in. Make sure your jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water. Cover and let process for 10 minutes. If your water stops boiling after the jars are dropped in, let it return to a boil before you start the timer on processing.
After the ten minute processing time has past, use your jar grabber tool to carefully remove each jar of beans one by one from the water bath. BE CAREFUL NOT TO TIP JARS. Hold upright!
Gently place jars on a flat surface where they will not be disturbed for 24 hours, out of any drafts which can cause jars to shatter.
You will likely hear the “pop” of your lids sealing after a short time. I LOVE that sound! It means you have successfully preserved your beans! However, if after 24 hours you have some that have not sealed, place them in the fridge and eat within a couple weeks. These unsealed jars will not keep on the shelf.


So easy! And TASTY!
on to our tomatoes…


Monday, August 13, 2012

Table Runner and Napkins Tutorial

We have one of those funky shaped, oblong tables. The ones that are rounded on the ends, so table runners never lie flat. It drives me nuts! I have tried to find runners to fit the width, but they are always too long. Plus, I am SUPER picky about color and pattern, and I have found nothing that fits my tastes.
While Lily and I were in Joann Fabrics the other day (yeah…not so much “the other day”…more like as few months ago), I found the perfect material to make a few runners and some matching napkins. The only problem is…I can’t sew. So, I did what any full grown woman in my situation would do…I called my mommy…HAHA! Right there in the middle of the quilting fabric aisle of Joann, and asked her if she would teach me how to sew.
I would like to say that I measured my table, then went back to the store and purchased my fabric. But I didn’t. I purchased 2 yards of each fabric, because I was afraid someone else would snatch it up first. Luckily that was enough.
I am completely clueless about sewing terms, so this tutorial is amateur at best.

I decided to make two reversible table runners that would span the width of my table, and have 8 inches of drape on either end. My table measures 41 1/2 inches. So…I added 41 1/2 and 16 (the drape), then another inch for seam allowance on either end. The total fabric length I needed was 58 1/8 inches. (I rounded up to 60 inches). I researched the width of standard table runners, and found that they were 13 inches. Add and inch for 1/2 seam allowance on the sides. Final dimensions….60x14.
For the napkins, I decided to use a yard of each fabric (2 yards total) for 4 reversible napkins. I cut the squares 17x17 inches.
I washed my fabric first so It could shrink…this will prevent pulling and bunching later…then ironed all the wrinkles out.

t runner 2

I used a yardstick and a measuring board to draw my pattern on the material. Use pen or marker to mark your material (you will not see it when it is sewn together).

table runner 2

I used a quilter's square to measure my napkins.

table runner 3

When all the pieces are cut iron the fabric again.

table runner 4

Next, I enlisted the help of my adorable sidekick, Lily. She handed me the pins while I pinned the 2 sides of each runner and napkins together. Do this inside out!! (Sorry…I forgot to take a picture of this part…oops!)

t runner 5

Next, I sewed the pieces together, using the 1/2 inch guide.
This was pretty comical…

t runner 3

I have NEVER sewed before. My mom was laughing at me because I sew like a 90-year-old woman drives a car. S-L-O-W.
We were joking that it was so slow, I put her dog to sleep…


and that is pretty bad, because she is a hyper Jack Russell!

tablr runner 6
I decided to let my mom take over.
But, I did sew the inside of the first runner myself!
We left a 2-3 inch gap in the fabric, where we did not sew, so the fabric could be pulled right-side out.

table runner 9

(Again…I did not take a picture…but here it is after I had pulled the fabric through.)

table runner 8

Before I pulled the fabric through my opening, my mom cut each of the corners down, so they won’t bunch up inside the runner/napkin. She also trimmed a little fabric from the outside for the same reason.

table runner 10

I pulled the fabric through the opening.

t runner 4


table runner 12

Iron it flat. I made sure to fold and iron the edges of the opening in to make it look uniform with the rest of the piece.

trunner 6

Now the master seamstress, my beautiful mom, did the finishing stitches around the outside. She sewed a 1/2 inch seam around the edges.

t runner 7

I ironed them one more time…

table runner 13


runner 45

I have two gorgeous table runners!
The yellow runner is the same fabric on both sides. (I didn’t make matching napkins for this one…I ordered the mocha colored napkins in this picture from Crate & Barrel…super cheap on clearance.)

runner 1

This runner and napkins are floral on one side, and cute, mod green dots on the other. I LOVE them!! 

I am looking forward to fall, when the kids are both in school, and I have time to sew some more. I could totally become obsessed with runners and napkins…HA! Maybe some envelope pillow covers…
The next time I will be doing it completely by myself (I hope). 

I am linking up with...


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Kitchen: The Bad…The Worse…and the Downright Nasty


One of my favorite things to do in my spare time (HA!) is surf blogs and check out everyone’s AMAZING kitchens…and there are some pretty fabulous ones out there.


This leaves me with a tremendous feeling of inadequacy…and a little bit of the envies…

You see, my kitchen is HORRIBLE!

So horrible, that I am really embarrassed to show these pictures…

But I am keeping it real . PLEASE don’t be too harsh in your judgment…




Here she is in all her dilapidated glory…

missing drawer fronts, 1970’s gold-flecked countertops…




worn cabinets, old stove, black switchplate covers…

You can plainly see…it is BAD!

It is so bad, that when I am taking pictures for my posts, I spend hours cropping out the nastiness (avoiding the judging)…




Don’t you just LOVE the view of my recycle bins, water heater, furnace and assorted crap from the mudroom (which is a whole different sad story in itself)? This is my main obstacle when taking pictures.





I try to get more shots from this angle. But it is really cramped…and you can clearly see one (of three) missing drawer front.









Then we have this lovely view…yet another missing drawer front, my grungy, worn out (although clean) floor, and lovely paneled walls. Oh yeah…and the doggie barricade behind the pretty (said with much sarcasm) baker’s rack.




As you can see…




It is lacking in the loveliness department.




I  have big plans (well, not really big…but noticeable) in store for my little kitchen!


kp 2



kp 1



kp 3

What do you think??

I am open to any suggestions anyone has for me…budget friendly, of course!


Fall is shaping up to be SUPER busy in the Saxton household!



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