Fussy eaters filled my home when I was a growing up. My father, Ernie, known to many in Hancock County as “the potato chip man,” grew up eating simple meals of meat and potatoes, and so that’s what my mother usually put on our table, that and the occasional tuna wiggle.
Along with pork chops or chicken or meatloaf, one of a short list of vegetables was featured: corn, peas or green beans, most often from a can. How did my mother prepare those vegetables? Let me count the ways. 1. boiled on the stove top with a pat of butter. 2. Uh, well, if boiling them on the stove was good enough for my grandmother, then it was good enough for us.
Since taking my place in the kitchen, though, I have discovered loads of ways to prepare a bounty of vegetables. Green beans can be sautéed, stir-fried, roasted, steamed and even pickled. Pickling wasn’t my favorite choice till recently, however, as the “dilly beans” I sampled from other people’s pantries did not inspire enthusiasm.
That all changed last year when I swapped some canned goods with my friend Abby Curtis. Her pickled green beans were a delight. I decided then that I would plant a patch of beans and put some up for winter eating, and I did just that earlier this summer. With the odd spring and summer weather, though, planting a second crop of beans on July 21 seemed like a good idea, as did experimenting with new seasonings. I’m now in the second week of harvesting those beans.
After thinking about what flavors taste good with green beans (and make sense in a pickle), I settled on the following recipe. It’s simple, with a prominent lemon note and otherwise balanced flavor.
Lemon Pickled Green Beans
Makes 7 pints
4 lbs. of green beans, washed and cut to fit in the jars
6 black peppercorns per jar
1 Tbsp. fresh chives per jar
½ tsp. lemon zest per jar
½ tsp. dried thyme per jar
5 cups of white vinegar
5 cups water
½ cup pickling salt
Fill the sterilized pint jars with the green beans, peppercorns, chives, lemon zest and thyme. Leave an inch of space at the top of the jars.
Start a water bath by putting enough water to cover the jars into a canning pot or other large, deep pot, and setting it on the stove on high to bring to a boil.
While waiting for that watched pot, put the vinegar, water and pickling salt in a large pot over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it carefully into the pint canning jars, leaving an inch of headspace for the food to expand. Put the sterilized lids and bands on those jars. They should be finger tight.
Carefully lower those jars into the boiling water bath. Process them for five minutes from the time the water bath has resumed boiling.
Turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Carefully remove the jars and set them on a cooling rack undisturbed. Once cool, tighten the bands and label them. They should be ready to eat in a week, but will keep for months or longer in a cool, dark place.
These lemon pickled green beans are delicious from the jar and make a great addition to a light lunch of toast, cheese and any other pickles you have on hand. Another great way to use them that many people just don’t think about is as an ingredient in another dish.
Think about it. You have green beans that are already pleasingly seasoned. They can be chopped and added to a cold potato salad, a stir-fry, fried rice or even an omelet with some Parmesan cheese on top.