Green beans are kind of like tribbles. They look so innocuous when they first spring forth from the earth, small shoots with oversized heart-shaped leaves, twining around bamboo poles or standing proudly upright in bushes. When the first beans start to appear in early July, you’re ecstatic, eagerly picking them off the bush and eating them with nothing more than a little butter and salt so that nothing masks their glorious fresh-picked tenderness.
Before long, though, you begin to realise what you’ve unleashed. Lurking beneath that shady canopy of leaves, you discover ever-increasing clusters of beans, multiplying at an alarming rate. You pick the plot clean one evening, only to return the following day to find an equally large crop dangling from the bushes.
At dusk, if you close your eyes and open your ears, you can almost hear them growing, smugly rustling their leaves at you in the fading light. It’s not just a wayward breeze, no matter what you might think. They’re taunting you.
You find yourself adding beans to everything, frantically trying to consume the bounty you’ve unwittingly inflicted on yourself. You’ll have stir-fried green beans, steamed green beans, curried green beans and green bean salad. You might even find yourself trying to figure out how to incorporate green beans into desserts, or wondering if you can substitute them for the cats’ regular kibble.
Thankfully, the beast can be tamed without resorting to such desperate tactics. All it takes is a couple of Mason jars, some hot brine and a handful of herbs and spices, plus a little time and patience.
Eventually, you’ll be rewarded with jars of these spicy dilly beans, which can be served as an accompaniment to cheese or charcuterie plates, or alongside a sandwich. Or just eaten straight for the jar, for those days when your sour tooth demands satisfaction.
Sometimes victory isn’t sweet. Sometimes it’s spicy and vinegary and crunchy.
- 1 lb green, wax or broad beans (or a mixture)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 red chile pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh dill
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp each fennel and dill seeds
- Trim the stem ends from the beans. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beans for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain, and immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
- In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring water, white vinegar. kosher salt and sugar to a boil. Continue boiling for 2-3 minutes, or until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Meanwhile, chop the chile pepper into thick rings – if you’d like a less spicy pickle, remove seeds and discard.
- Divide the chili pepper rings between two sterilized 1L mason jars, along with two dill sprigs, two garlic cloves, 2 tsp mustard seeds and tsp each fennel and dill seed per jar.
- Fill each jar with beans, packing them in fairly tightly (if the beans are too long, trim the ends to leave at least ¼” headspace in each jar). Pour hot brine over the beans, filling up to ¼” from the top.
- Seal jars with lids and rings. Let cool on the counter and then transfer to the refrigerator. Give the beans at least two to three weeks to fully pickle before opening (yes, waiting sucks… but trust me, it’s worth it!). Jars will keep for 3-4 months in the fridge.
- For longer storage, process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, then store in a cool, dry place away from light for up to 6 months.