Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

I love spicy pickled green beans. They are so good on their own, but I really like them in a sandwich or as part of a Ploughman's Platter. Also known as a Ploughman's Lunch, this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my pickles and an assortment of whatever else you have on hand by way of crusty bread, cured meats, roasted nuts, olives, hard-cooked eggs, cheeses, and a bit of fruit if you are lucky. These days as I'm not eating meat, gluten or dairy, my perfect Ploughman's Platter would consist of spicy pickled green beans, hot peppers, and garlic, roasted salted marcona olives, dried apricots and dates, some homemade hummus or this tomato almond spread (in my fridge now and just delightful), gluten-free pretzels or homemade nut and seed crackers and some cucumber slices. Ah, the serenity.

So let's get to it. Pickles are easy to can and everyone should try it. At first for some reason, it felt intimidating to me, but once I realized how I could simplify the process I changed my tune. Pickles, especially the interesting or spicy ones, are always among the favorite canned goods with friends and family. And the new Ball pint and a half jars (24 oz.) are especially perfect for the green beans as you almost never have to trim them down and waste all those precious end pieces. As well, the sizing of this recipe is highly variable and easy to scale down if you don't want to make a giant batch. Ultimately, if you run out of brine, just heat up a little more vinegar and water and you're good! Since you put the spices directly in the jar it doesn't matter much.

A word on the spice- I have tried as many ways of making a spicy pickle as I can think of (dried whole, crushed dried red, fresh chunks or strips, and cayenne pepper). You should definitely tailor these to your personal spicyness quotient. In my mind, dried peppers create the most mild "spicy" pickle, then cayenne, then fresh. If you are feeling mild when you make these, omit the fresh pepper and use a small pinch of crushed red peppers or a small dried red pepper.

Spicy Pickled Green Beans
adapted from hungry tigress' spicy pickled green beans

(for a large batch of 8-9 pint and a half jars)

5 lbs. green beans, washed and stem ends trimmed (it helps to hand pick them and choose straight ones- it's a bit time consuming, but you'll thank me in the end!)
8 c. white vinegar
8 c. water
3-4 jalapenos or other fresh peppers, chunked into 1 inch peices
fresh garlic cloves, enough for 1-2 per jar
Spices: canning salt, mustard seed, dill seed

Heat vinegar and water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep warm while you prep your jars. Get your water bath canner ready and your lids softening in some simmering water.

Prep jars~ For each add 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, 1-2 jalapeno chunks, and seasonings: 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. mustard seed, 2 tsp. dill (for a pint jar reduce seasonings a bit per jar).

Fill jars with green beans. Pro tip! Line up the beans in your hand until you can't hold anymore. Tap them on the counter to line the cut ends up. Pop in your jar, which should be almost completely full this way. If you can fit a few more, slide them in along the side of the jar, which will help them fit in smoothly.

Fill each jar with vinegar brine, and then use a chopstick to bubble your jars (poke them to release air bubbles). In pickles this is more important to do than with jam because the beans all squished together make for lots of nooks and crannies for air to hide. Don't forget! =)

Fill back up with brine after releasing air bubbles, leaving ~1/4 inch headspace. Wipe your rims down, screw on the lids and process in your water bath canner for 10 min.

It's a good idea to leave your jars in the water bath for 5-10 min. after processing (turn the heat off) to let everything settle back down and not loose too much brine.

There you have it! The beans are fine to eat now, but will taste even better if you wait 2-4 weeks.