I always plant too many beans. Probably because they are easy and reliable.
I bought a package of green bush beans, the variety of which I can no longer remember, when I started my first garden seven years ago. Every year since, I have let several pods dry on the plants and harvested the dried beans in the fall. In the spring, I poke a bunch into prepared soil, water and watch ’em grow.
The crops seem to come in waves. If I miss a few days of picking, I am suddenly overwhelmed by hundreds of beans close to that too-big-to-eat stage.
I’ve employed a few different techniques for using the bounty: daily portions of steamed beans, roasted beans, stir-fried beans, bean salad; sharing with family, neighbours and co-workers (produce revenge is what my husband used to call the nearly forced exchange of vegetables at my former office); blanching and freezing.
My favourite, by far, though, is pickling. I first made pickled beans last year and was hooked.
The recipe is simple. Just cook the brine, pack fresh beans, garlic, dill, peppercorns and red pepper flakes if you like into jars, cover with the brine and process. It works well with those large, sometimes tougher, beans. The taste is addictive. An opened jar rarely lasts longer than a couple days in our house.
This summer, I had more than one person talk to me about pickled beans — for snacking or as a garnish for a bloody Caesar. Appears I may be ahead of the food curve this time.
The basis of this recipe comes from Bernardin. I’ve used both dried dill seed (harvested from my herb garden the previous summer) and fresh heads, also from my garden, which look so pretty in a jar. Add as much or as little garlic, peppercorns (black or green) and red pepper flakes as you like. You can also add sweet red pepper slices for colour.
2 kg (4-1/2 lb) green beans, trimmed and washed
garlic, 1-2 cloves per jar
dill, 5 mL (1 tsp) dried or 1 large head fresh per jar
peppercorns, 3-plus per jar
red pepper flakes, 5 mL (1 tsp) per jar or to taste
750 mL (3 cups) water
750 mL (3 cups) white vinegar
45 mL (3 tbsp) pickling salt
In a large saucepan, combine water, white vinegar and pickling salt. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Pack beans, garlic, dill, peppercorns and pepper flakes into hot, sterilized 500 mL jars. Fill jars with brine, leaving 1-cm head space.
Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes.
Makes about six 500 mL jars.