My grandmother kept a tidy little vegetable garden outside her New England home. While she did a decent job of growing squash, cucumbers, and some tomatoes, her best results always came out of her snap bean plants. This also meant my annual August trips to visit her were filled by snapping beans on her porch (a job reserved strictly for grandchildren) and putting jars upon jars of canned green beans in her cellar. She never taught me her recipes, but many years later I've mastered the art of turning fresh snap beans into tart dilly pickles from farm-stand green beans.
Snap, String, or Green Beans
Snap, string, or green beans are all terms used interchangeably to describe pole or bush beans that grow in the spring and early fall. They can be found in some markets in yellow and purple hues — although they will lose their purple hue when cooked. Haricots verts are a smaller, thinner French varietal that is best eaten lightly cooked and doesn't hold up as well to pickling. Buy fresh green beans for pickling and be sure to remove the stem end before cooking.
To Blanch or Not to Blanch
Some recipes for making pickled green beans call for blanching, which means quickly cooking in boiling water and then chilling them in an ice bath. This is reported to keep the beans' color and snap once pickled.
While blanching can improve the color of these beans slightly, I haven't found the results worth the effect. The beans will soften when the hot pickle brine is added to the jar, rendering them somewhat tender without blanching. If the color of the beans is highly important to you, cook them for three minutes in boiling water and quickly chill in an ice bath before adding them to the jar.
Tilt to Fill
For a pretty jar of dilly beans, tilt the jar on its side for filling. Lay the stems of dill on the side of the jar first, and then add the beans on top of it. Pack the jar as tightly as you can. A full pound will fit in a quart-sized jar, or you can halve the beans and layer them into two pint-sized jars.
How To Make Dilly Beans
Makes 1 quart-sized jar or 2 pint-sized jars
What You Need
green, yellow, or purple string beans
red pepper flakes
yellow mustard seeds
fresh dill sprigs
distilled white vinegar
kosher salt or 2 teaspoons pickling salt
1 wide-mouth quart or 2 wide-mouth pint jars with lids
Measuring cups and spoons
Canning funnel, optional
Prepare the jars: Wash the jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry or dry completely by hand.
Prepare the beans: Rinse the beans under cool running water and drain well. Trim the stem ends from the beans and halve them if using 2 pint-sized jars. Leave them whole if using a quart jar.
Add the spices to the jars: Place the garlic, red pepper flakes, and mustard seeds in the jar(s).
Pack the green beans into the jars: Place the jar on its side. Place the sprigs of dill down first, then stack the beans in the jar, orienting them so that they will stand up straight when the jar stands upright. Pack the jar as tightly as possible. A full pound will fit in one quart jar, or you can divide the beans into 2 pint jars.
Make the pickling brine: Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Pour the brine over the green beans, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use all the brine.
Remove the air bubbles: Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if needed. Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
Cool and refrigerate: Let the jars cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
Storage: These pickles are not canned and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. If you process and can the jars, they can be stored at room temperature unopened.