Safe Preserving: Dilly Beans

I canned dilly beans using the same recipe that I always use. Why are they all shriveled? 


Image courtesy of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Dilly beans are a Wisconsin favorite. There are several reasons that dilled beans, or other pickled products, can take on a ‘wrinkly’ appearance after canning.

  • Placing vegetables in too strong a vinegar, sugar, or salt brine can cause shriveling. Always follow a tested recipe. Use the amount of sugar and salt called for in the recipe, or you can reduce the amount of either of these ingredients in a quick-process pickle recipe as they are added for flavor and not for safety.  For safety sake always use the amount of vinegar called for in a tested recipe, using vinegar that is 5% acetic acid (5% acidity).
  • Holding beans or other vegetables too long between harvest and pickling. Even if vegetables are refrigerated, they can begin to deteriorate if you delay pickling. For best quality, pickle garden produce within 24 hours of harvest.
  • Over-cooking or over-processing can cause shriveling. Follow  a tested recipe exactly.  There are no approved recipes for pressure canning pickled products; these products should be canned in a boiling water canner. Do remember to account for your elevation when determining processing time.  Many locations in Wisconsin are over 1,000 feet in elevation, requiring longer processing times in a boiling water canner. Refer to information in the UW-Extension bulletin Homemade Pickles and Relishes for research-tested recipes and processing information.
  • If the growing season was dry, vegetables will tend to shrivel when pickled. Green beans and cucumbers are two vegetables that are especially susceptible to shriveling when pickled if the growing season has been dry (like it has been this year in Wisconsin).  Unfortunately, there is no remedy for this cause of shriveling.

As long as the product was canned using a reliable recipe, the beans (even if shriveled) will be safe to eat; though perhaps not the quality that you would like.

Dilly beans can be seasoned with garlic (a clove is usually added to each jar) or hot pepper (use 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or 1 small dry hot pepper per jar) for a spicy treat.

And while we are on the subject of canning, have you ever had garlic in pickled products turn pink or blue?  When this happens, the pickled product is still perfectly safe to eat!  The garlic has turned color due to a reaction between minerals in the water and pigments naturally present in the garlic. The presence of acid in the pickling brine provides just the right conditions for the color to form. Some varieties of garlic are more susceptible to this happening than others. This phenomenon is also more common in immature garlic. Safe preserving! Barb