Low-fuss pickling

19th July, 2011 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Dill pickled green beans

One summer when I was around twelve, my mother got the questionably brilliant idea to can a bunch of dill and sweet pickles. Neither of my parents were big gardeners at the time, so where this bumper crop of cucumbers came from remains a mystery.

At the time, we lived in a house without air conditioning that had been built in the late 1920s. My bedroom was at the top of a narrow flight of stairs that was accessible only through the kitchen. After waking up on the second hot summer day with everything I owned (and myself) smelling of brine, I decamped to my best friend’s house for the remainder of the pickling project and have had a cautious relationship with pickles ever since.

A couple years ago, a dill pickled string bean found it’s way onto my plate and I’ve had to re-evaluate my stance. I was also introduced to the concept of refrigerator pickling – which can be done in small batches and doesn’t smell up the place. The disadvantage is that the final product needs to be stored in the fridge and will only last about a month; as opposed to vegetables that have been hot canned, which can be stored on a shelf in the pantry for a year or two.

As the summer garden seasons hits its midpoint, this is an interesting way to deal with excess produce. A lot vegetables can be pickled with good effects. Carrots, radishes and asparagus all hold up well to this treatment.

Canning is also having something of a resurgence in popularity and this is a good way to dip a toe in without investing in a pressure cooker. If the results turn out well for you, then maybe look at the more labor-intensive forms of canning.

The brine recipe below is pretty basic, so feel free to play with variations. If you leave out the dill and substitute a dried chili pepper, then spicy pickled green beans will be born – which make an excellent garnish for Bloody Marys.  Rice wine vinegar and ginger will create a more Asian-flavored brine, which is great for cabbage if you want a milder version of kimchi.

Once everything is in the brine, pop the jars in the refrigerator and stand back for a couple days while chemistry does its magic. It’s ok to give the jars a shake every so often to mix around the herbs and garlic.

Despite my many references to jars, it’s more than acceptable to pickle vegetables in whatever air-tight container is handy. Just be sure to left the brine cool before putting them in the refrigerator.

Once they are ready to eat, what’s the best way to enjoy them? Personally, I tend to grab a bean or two while puttering around the kitchen. They are also tasty dipped in a lemony mayonnaise or chopped up and included in a salad with other beans.

Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans

½ lb string beans, trimmed (or as much will fit in a medium-sized jar)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
dash red pepper flakes
3 sprigs fresh dill

1. Place string beans upright in a 32-ounce glass jar. Trim any ends that reach the top of the jar. Add in dill sprigs.

2. Combine all other ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (or large measuring cup). Microwave for 90 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 90 seconds.

3. Pour mixture into jar, leaving ½ inch of space at the top. After you pour in the brine, if the jar’s not full, add water and vinegar until it is. Screw on the lid.

4. Let cool to room temperature. Shake to distribute seeds and spices. Refrigerate.

5. Beans are ready after four days, and will last a month in the fridge.

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Posted on: July 19, 2011

Filed under: Sides, Vegetarian

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