Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A dilly of a pickle...

... which happens to be my favourite bon mot at the moment... Anyway, green beans - nightmare - they get out of control running rampant within the confines of their wigwam (so not very out of control at all, in fact), get too long, too twisty, too pale to look any good. So, dear reader, we pickle them.

I've never really been into making jams and pickles and things - never had to deal before with an own-grown glut of things, so this was actually my first attempt. I have been driven for some years, however, to look out for a pickled green bean recipe - when I was in Boston a few years ago we went for the most awesome brunch and my Bloody Mary was served not with a celery stick, but with a pickled green bean. I thought the combination magical and have been on the lookout ever since, but nothing quite hit the mark until this. The base of the recipe comes from Christine McFadden's Farm Shop Cookbook.

So... with my notes...

Makes 4 x 600ml jars (I halved the recipe as I only had 2 jars).

850g green beans, stalks removed (I had as many as I could pick but that seemed to pack into 2 Kilner jars, but I did have to cut them in half to fit them in.)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
8 sprigs dill
1.25 L distilled (malt) vinegar (careful halving this as you may need more than half. I can't explain that - I failed Physics over and over)
280g sugar
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp dill seeds (in lieu of which I used fennel seeds)

Plunge the beans into boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. I did this as it's supposed to keep their viridian colour, but mucked it up later - see below. Pack vertically - or anyway you can - or layering into the kilner jars with the onion, garlic and dill sprigs.

Heat the vinegar, sugar, salt and dill/fennel seeds in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil briefly, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. I recommend cooling almost completely, as pouring it over the beans when hot renders them khaki rather than appetisingly bright green, as you're continuing the cooking somewhat. Ideally the liquid should come to the top. Seal and store in a cool place for at least a week.

I left these 9 days, then cracked a jar open. The beans had retained their crunch, which I had been worried about and tasted fabulous. A little on the short side, perhaps, but then, aren't we all...?

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