“On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.”
True confession: I have never made my own pickles. The whole process scares me. When my husband was served pickled green beans like a jewel alongside a sandwich on vacation, he raved about how good they were. The restaurant would not part with the owner’s recipe. So I thought I would try my hand at making some for him. Because how often do you come across pickled green beans anyways? Not like I could buy him some at the supermarket.
It was surprisingly easy to make the pickled green beans in a spiced brine. I went as far as sterilizing the jars and lids by placing them in boiling water for 15 minutes but I did not seal them. Because bottom line, I am still a sissy when it comes to canning. Too many microbiology courses have been imprinted on this brain. So I called these “refrigerator” pickles and did not worry myself about any of the things that could go wrong with home pickling! Shelf life: 1 month.
Refrigerator pickles are quick, can be done one jar at a time which allows a home cook to experiment with flavors and vegetables. Vegetables with a little structure and denser fiber lends themselves best to the process. Leafy vegetables, not so much. The brine is where you can get creative: it is basically vinegar to which you can add fresh herbs, garlic, citrus peel, salt, peppercorns, etc.
The pickled beans retained a nice crunch and had just the right amount of spice to make them interesting. Maybe I’ll be ready to graduate to full blown canning next time!
Quick Pickled Green Beans
2 bunches of green beans to fill your jars, trimmed to the height of your jars
2 c distilled white vinegar
2/3 c water
sprigs of tarragon
1 t garlic, minced
zest of a lemon
2 t Kosher salt
1 T black peppercorns
Place your clean jars and their lids in a large pot of boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes and keep in the water until ready to fill.
In a large pot, bring all ingredients to a boil and cook the green beans for 2 minutes. In your jars, place a fresh sprig of tarragon. Using kitchen tongs dipped in the boiling water, transfer the beans to each jar. Fill with the cooking brine, leaving about 1 inch airspace at the top. Make sure to scoop up peppercorns, garlic and zest for each jar. Screw lid on tight and let cool at room temperature before refrigerating.
The pickles will have the best flavor after a week in the brine although we ate some right away and they were quite good. The pickles will keep for a month.
What will you pickle?
Good pickling principles and recipes can be found in this excellent Sunset magazine article which I referenced for my pickling adventure: