Most vegetables are takers but bean give back. Along with the rest of the legumes beans have formed an amazing symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium). These bacteria that call the roots of legumes home are capable of taking the inert nitrogen gas (n2) that constitutes almost 80% of every breath that we take and turning it into a form of nitrogen that plants can use. Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient to plant growth in the garden. The more nitrogen your soil contains, the better your garden will grow. Thus, beans nourish not only the gardener but the garden as well.
Botany class is dismissed.
I love beans in their dried form, but the green bean leaves me wishing for more when it hits the kitchen counter or the dinner plate. Sure, a salade niçoise is great but it’s more about the olives, boiled egg, and tuna for me. Green beans almondine? I think it’s an absolutely satisfactory side dish but I have never craved it and I crave most things from time to time.
What I really love to do with green beans is pickle them. When you preserve a summer-grown ingredient, it is usually about packing some of the vibrant flavours of summer up for use on a cool and drizzly winter’s day. The flavours of the preserve might not be as good as garden-fresh produce, but what you sacrifice in flavour you gain in shelf-stability. Pickling green beans is not a seasonal compromise. It elevates the ingredient and makes it delicious… but you’ve heard what I think about green beans so take this opinion with a grain of salt (or a half-cup as the recipe advises).
Serve these pickles on your cheese platter, use them as a garnish in a Bloody Mary, or eat the whole jar in a single sitting.
Recipe For Pickled Green Beans
Adapted from one provided by the USDA – so romantic, I know! I do like this recipe and my early canning days, wracked with worry about contamination, had me sticking to advice from Big Brother (or his farmer cousin). Since this recipe was my introduction to canning, I thought it would be a nice start to OurLocaltopia’s posts on home preservation. (If you are considering canning for the first time, read our Primer on Canning before getting started.)
This is a recipe that will do well in both a water-bath canner and in the fridge. If you feel up to canning your beans, do so! If you do not want to go through the rigmarole of canning, prepare the recipe but omit the boiling-water bath and allow the beans to cure in the fridge. This recipe should keep in the fridge for up to a month.
- 4 lbs fresh tender green or yellow beans (5 to 6 inches long)
- 8 sprigs fresh dill
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (do not use table salt! The iodine will impart some nasty flavours!)
- 4 cups white vinegar or any vinegar standardize to 5% acidity (5 percent acidity – no substitutes here – most standard white vinegar is 5%)
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
Prepare the kettle – Fill your canning kettle with water and place it over the highest flame possible
Create the brine – Combine water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan and warm over a high flame
Prepare your produce – Wash green beans, remove both ends with a paring knife, and trim beans to a length that your jars will accommodate (including headspace)
Ready the jars – Sterilize jars, remove from boiling water, and begin to simmer lids in pan filled with water
Place a clove or two of garlic, a sprig of fresh dill and a sprinkling of pepper flakes into each jar.
Pack the rinsed and trimmed beans into the sterilized jars atop the garlic, dill and peppers, leaving ½ inch of headspace.
Fill jars with prepared brine to ½ inch below rim – ½ inch of headspace
Apply lids, tighten rings until just finger tight
Load kettle and process for 5 minutes – process for 15 minutes if your kitchen is above 1,000 feet in altitude (so many variables! Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitude…)
Remove jars from kettle and place on a towel or cutting board
Allow to cool and refrigerate or discard any jars that haven’t sealed properly
Wait 10 days before sampling your beans – pickles take time to cure!
~Jonathan Duffy Davis