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Dilly Green Beans (or Okra!)

by Leigh Sackett

I spent my Friday and Saturday engrossed in the amazing world of Thomas Jefferson. Our plan was to head to Monticello on Saturday so in preparation I watched a documentary on Jefferson’s life. Knowing something of the history before you go helps you take in what you see and having a glimpse into Jefferson’s world made me appreciate him all the more when I was taking in the splendor of Monticello.

What a rich history and an amazing life story our 3rd president brings to us. I could write volumes about all that inspired me there. My children were enthralled, as well, and to see them pretending that they were a president in the 1800s instead of the latest pop culture icon was enough reward for me – but it did not stop there.

The kitchen at Monticello certainly was a feast. Located underneath Monticello in the area of the house called “the Dependencies,” the kitchen was among the best equipped of its time in Virginia. Edith Fossett was the cook at Monticello during the last 16 years of Jefferson’s life and she served meals with a mix of French and Virginia cuisine. (Jefferson spent 5 years in France and his tastes were very influenced by his time spent there.) Many of the ingredients used for the recipes came from the working plantation at Monticello which contained amazing gardens that were tirelessly kept and tended by the slaves who lived there.

There is a recording that plays in the kitchen that recreates the sounds and voices of the people at work in the kitchen. You can just imagine the all day affair of creating the meals served at Monticello – the bustle of food preparation and the race of delivering the meals up to the house and the pride of his daughter Martha and all who worked on the meals as they were served to the diners.

When we are given an appreciation of such history it reminds us that everything we create is, in the end, meant to be Holy and should be crafted with care, love and honor – for all that we bring to the world is a gift and our history is a glorious part of that gift. So as you work in your humble or grandiose kitchen remember the cooks before you who took such pride in their service and give this little recipe that they used a try. I just love veggies – dilled and pickled – enjoy!

Wash, drain and cut into lengths to fill pint jars: 4 lbs young green beans or okra pods

Add to each jar:

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper, crushed

½ teaspoon whole mustard seed

½ teaspoon dill seed

1 garlic clove

Combine and heat to boiling: 5 cups white vinegar, 4 cups water, ½ cup salt

Pour boiling liquid over beans. Fill jars to ½ inch from top. Process in boiling water bath for five minutes.

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