Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dilly Beans

In case I had been previously confused, I now know for certain, high paying jobs that impress other people are not important to me.  Instead I am motivated by jobs that match my values and allow me to parent the way I want.  As this blog should make very clear I am heavily invested in how people eat.  Because of this I spent a year at the VNA Family Room working for poverty level wages as their Americorps Vista Healthy Food Coordinator.  At the end of the year the Family Room was making lunches for their preschool in house instead of relying on food from the school district.  My menu included several bean dishes and all the grains where whole grains.  Plus, the children actually ate the food, including vegetables, I prepared.  Watching a child who said the only vegetable he likes was canned corn devour kale chips made me want to do back flips through the classroom.  (It is probably best for everyone that I have never learned to do a back flip).

So this summer when a friend started to tell me how my children's school was hiring a lunch room monitor for the first time and I really should apply for the job I stood there listening to her and shaking my head no the whole time.  When she was done talking somehow I stopped shaking my head and decided I could make the most difference in how the children at the school ate by being there every day.  So now I spend 3 hours smack dab in the middle of the day in a lunch room filled with boisterous children.  I walk around and remind them to eat, offer them taste tests of a new healthy food available in the salad bar that I am sure they will like once they taste it.  I try to keep the children happy and social without tipping over into crazy chaos and bedlam.

I have had feedback from many adults in the building that they would not have taken this job on a bet.  But I have also had several staff I really respect tell me I am doing a great job and they have never seen the lunch room with such a nice kid vibe and still efficient.  I calmly tell them they have not seen me with the classes that are the most challenging.

Truth is most of the time, I love it, and not just because Julian finally has to stop taking chocolate milk.  But man is it exhausting, three hours is like a marathon.  For me to post here I think it will have to be during the window after I drop my boys and school and before I return for work.  Once I decide these Dilly Beans are done curing my boys will bring them to lunch.  Because most of the time my boys still bring lunch from home.  Because I make them slightly spicy with 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes in every jar, both boys will eat them and sip milk between each bite.

Dilly Beans
Adapted from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving to replace cayenne pepper with crushed red pepper flakes (this does not affect safety, I just prefer this type of heat)

2 pounds string beans (I used Rattlesnake and Purple Pole beans from my garden)
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups 5% acidity cider vinegar (you can use other 5% acidity vinegars but I prefer the more mellow flavor of the cider vinegar.  Although many prefer the clear color of white vinegar in the brine)
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste, divided
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill

Trim ends off beans so they fit in the jars with 1/4 inch headspace (I used the new Ball Pint and a Half Jars).  Combine the salt, vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil and cook until the salt is completely dissolved.  Pack Beans into jars with 1/4 inch headspace and add 1 clove of garlic for each pint or pint and a half jar with 1 head of dill and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper.  For quart jars use 2 heads of dill, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.  Ladle hot brine over the beans with 1/4 inch headspace.  Use a bubble wand or other nonmetal utensil, to press the beans away from the wall of the bar to release any trapped air.  repeat carefully all around the jar.

If need be top up the liquid after removing any air bubbles to maintain 1/4 inch headspace.  Use a damp paper towel to clean the rims of jars before placing lids and rings on top and tightening by hand.  Place filled jars in the canner and process for 10 minutes once the canner comes up to a full boil.  After the 10 of processing time turn the heat off and remove the lid of the canner.  Let the jars and canner rest and cool for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a kitchen towel or receiving blanket to cool on the counter with at least 1 inch of space between all the jars.  Allow the beans to cure in the jars for 2 weeks before joyfully sampling.

1 comment:

  1. I bet you are SO good at that job! I hope you keep loving it!