Green beans, long and straight and crisp, are abundant in midsummer. Really abundant. Beans don’t ripen conveniently, with a pound available for dinner tonight and another pound next week. Instead, three or four pounds will be ready to pick one day and again the next. Philosopher Henry David Thoreau, with his seven miles of bean rows, surely must have pickled some of his harvest.
Pickled green beans are not as assertive as cucumber pickles but rather are delicate and briny, with the flavor of the bean shining through. They are most frequently offered as dilly beans, the taste vegetal and garlicky. This recipe takes a cue from the cuisine of India instead, using cumin and coriander as the base for a snappy pickle that can jazz up potato salad or garnish a turkey sandwich.
Three ingredients can be found in any vinegar-based pickle: water, salt and vinegar. The water must be free of chlorine or the pickles will taste as though they went swimming at the local pool. Buy bottled water for the project or use filtered water.
Choose only kosher, pickling or fine-grain sea salt, as each dissolves easily. Iodized table salt can interact with vinegar and impart a metallic taste to the pickles.
Select the vinegar for this project carefully. Pickling vinegars must be measured at a minimum 5 percent acidity for safe processing, but rice vinegar often falls below that mark. It is used here as a flavoring, in addition to distilled white vinegar. (Check the label to learn a vinegar’s acidity.)
You might be tempted to pickle yellow or deep purple beans, but stick with the standard green ones: The yellow ones turn muddy, and purple ones turn a deep olive green. Additionally, the haricot vert, that slim French version of a bean, is too delicate to stand up to this assertive treatment.
Look for just-picked beans — meaty, crisp and brightly colored — most often found at the farmers market and farm stands. Hope for absolutely fresh. Straight beans will pack readily into wide-mouth pint jars. If the beans are long and elegant, a tall jar will show off the pickle to great advantage. (Ball makes a 24-ounce jar that is perfect for the Kentucky Blue Wonder bean.) Turn the jar sideways to fill, facilitating a snug fit.
Trim off the stem ends and leave the adorable tails. If the tails are not perky, snap both ends. But be wary of beans with dry or droopy tails, an indication they might be past their prime.
Wait a week or even two before sampling these pickles. Any sharpness will have mellowed. The jar will be empty before you know it, and it will be time to start another batch.
Canning Class appears twice a month. Barrow’s first cookbook, “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton), will be published in the fall. She blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com. She will join Wednesday’s Free Range chat at live.washingtonpost.com.
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