Friday, October 28, 2011

Bean Pickles

Many years ago I grew my favourite garden thing in all the world, scarlet runner beans. When the harvest time came, I realised I had way more beans than we could eat before they either got too big and tough on the vine or went funny in the fridge. I was reluctant to freeze them, so I made them into pickles.

The other day, a friend gave me a jar of her absolutely wonderful tomato chutney. She makes a small batch every year and gives little teeny precious bits of it away to friends. I decided to reciprocate this nice gift with a jar of pickled beans.

Yes, it sounds weird, but they're way better than they sound.

I couldn't find Scarlet Runners here in Italy, but I got a big bag of something close from the local farmers' market.

Looking around for a recipe, I came across this cool site.

Food in Jars.

For those who long for lost domestic skills.

When I find the recipe, I'll let y'all know.


Turns out it's incredibly easy. I did two batches, one where I steamed the beans a couple of minutes to just barely soften them, and the other batch the beans are raw. I added some carrot slices and cauliflower florets.

I didn't really measure anything, just winged it instead, soooo:

Equal parts white wine vinegar and water
generous scoop of sea salt (maybe a cup for the whole thing)
smaller scoop of white sugar.

Cut up about a pound of beans, three large new carrots, and a fist-size clump of cauliflower.
Slice in to large chunks some fresh garlic and dried Thai chilies.

Other than that, you will need pickling spice and whole bay leaves.

Boil the vinegar, water salt and sugar together until the salt and sugar are dissolved and the whole thing is on a light rolling boil.

Wash your jars in nice hot soapy water. I don't have the equipment to boil the jars so I took a tip from my Auntie Gill who said that after you wash them it works just as well to stick them in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Wash the lids (the plastic coating is where mould spores tend to collect) and then boil them in water and salt.

Allow the jars to cool on the counter for a few minutes before putting anything in. This is important, since even though it is boiling, the brine will still be cool enough to crack the hot jars. Learned this one the hard way when I lost my best hinge-top jar making peach preserves last year.

The jars can still be pretty hot when you pop the beans in together with the other veg, a bay leaf each, a few large chunks of garlic and a few of the sliced chilies.

While the jars are still hot, and when the brine is on the boil, pour the brine over the veg to completely fill up the jar, right to the rim. Fish the right lid out of the boiling water and put it on very tightly. You know you have done it right when the little button things on the lids are depressed. As they cool, if there is a seal, the thingy doesn't pop down when you push on it.

The batch I did made four large-ish jars of pickles. Let them sit in a cupboard or other cool dry place for three weeks to three months. If you feel like you want to do something, you can shake and turn them, but this is only to make you feel like you've got something to do, it doesn't make a lick of difference to the pickles.


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