Dilly Beans: Where mad scientist, gardener, and cook meet and shake hands

It’s the point of summer where the garden stops playing coy and yields everything at once.  I love fresh green beans for dinner and don’t mind taking a few minutes to blanch what we don’t use and freeze them for winter.  However, I bore easily, and turn to less conventional ways to preserve the daily five-pound offering of beans coming from the ground.  It’s time to preserve old-school.  Before we had freezers and pressure cookers, a great way to store food was through controlled spoilage fermentation.

So, without further ado, I offer up my favorite summer pickle–a lacto-fermented dilly bean.  These have all the sour of a dilled cucumber spear, with twice the snap, along with a little heat.

What I share here is less recipe and more method, because it is less cooking and more kitchen science.

What you need:

2 quart jars
A pound of fresh green or yellow beans, cleaned and trimmed.  Or not trimmed, up to you.
1 qt. water.
3 Tablespoons salt.
4-6 garlic cloves.
Peppercorns.
1 hot pepper, seeds still in, split in half.  I used a purple cayenne.
A handful of dill weed, or 2 small dill heads.

Dissolve the salt in the water.  You do not have to use bottled water, but the fermentation happens faster if there is no chlorine in the water.  Place the garlic, peppercorns, and hot pepper in the bottom of the jars, along with the dill.

Jam the beans in the jars.  Pour the salt/water brine over the beans until they are covered.  At this point you can screw on the jar lids (but NOT tightly, as the lid needs to be loose to release the CO2 the fermentation will cause), or put a plastic bag (the kind that zip closed) with some brine in it over the tops of the jars.  Either way, just make sure all the beans are under the brine.  Then, walk away.

Come back in a day or two, and taste the beans.  Once they have reached your desired level of sourness, they are done, and you can tighten the lids and refrigerate them.

Now, the brine will get cloudy and bubbly.  That’s okay. If the brine turns pink, TOSS the whole thing and start over.

Fermentation 101 lesson is complete.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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9 Responses to Dilly Beans: Where mad scientist, gardener, and cook meet and shake hands

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    Ahhh, and it’s just been recommended to me to eat more fermented food. Apparently they’re good after you have had antibiotics that sterilize your stomach a little too much.

    • Oh, yes. Nothing better for you than this kind of probiotic. The ones fermenting on my counter since yesterday already smell like pickles, but they are not there yet. I love yogurt, but can only eat so much of it.

  2. Are dilly beans the same as runner beans? The look the same to me. we normally use them in preparing vegetable stews and salads. But they are my favourite in the preparation of jollof rice. ( a sort of kedgeree but with the stew and rice fresh and not left-over)

  3. Alice Keys says:

    YES! Fermentation. I’m searching for Chinese cabbage and ginger root this week so I can stink up my kitchen. The sourdough starter fermented right away here. Lots of pretty, pretty microbes in the air around here. Happy! Maybe beans next. Never fermented beans. Inspired by Susan again. I may grow a normal life here, yet. Or ferment one.

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