Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Green Kitchen: Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green. She continues CHG's No-Cook month.

This is not a post about canning.

No recipe described herein will keep for months in the recesses of your pantry. You will not satisfyingly pop the vacuum-sealed lid to retrieve the summer's bounty in the dead of the coming winter. I'm sorry. Or maybe you're welcome.

Think of this recipe, instead, as training wheels. You don't sterilize your jar – just wash it. And rather than lasting through winter, this recipe will keep for, like, a month, max, in your fridge. But good luck not devouring it before then.

Also you don't need to boil anything. Which is good, because apparently this heat wave is never. Going. To end.

Sorry. I don't like complaining about the weather. But COME ON.

Well, at least No-Cook Month was well timed.

Most of us know pickles as those spears of former cucumbers that come next to a deli sandwich, along with a tiny plastic cup of insanely mayonnaisey coleslaw. Or maybe we know pickles as sweet rounds of former cucumbers on top of our burgers. Or, if we're fancy, as cornichons.

But it turns out that pickle is not only a noun but a verb, and you can do it to just about anything! Cucumbers, carrots, asparagus, radishes, string beans. Even if you're not ready to face your (irrational, I promise) fear of exploding glass jars and spend some quality time with a giant vat of boiling water, pickles and their alchemical magic are within your reach.

When you make your own pickles, you choose the veggies and you design the brine. Sour or sweet, hot or mild, with whatever spices and flavorings you like. Rice wine vinegar and ginger brine for kohlrabi? Sure! Piles of garlic and chiles around your asparagus ? Do it!

I chose string beans for my first pickling endeavor because, well, I had them at home. I read a bunch of recipes, thought about what I liked in basic pickle flavor – a good kick and not too much sugar – and these beauties were born.

I found myself turning the filled jar over and over again like a snow globe, watching the mustard seeds float gently down among the fronds of the dill sprigs. It was all pretty romantic. Oh, also they tasted pretty awesome. I had to occupy myself during those painful days before they were ready to be eaten. But they were totally worth the wait.

*A note on nutritional calculations: it's hard to say how much, if any, of the nutritional components – fat, calories, etc – of the brine spices end up in your mouth when you eat the pickled beans. Fiber's not transferable that way, but to err on the safe side we've included fat and calorie content as if it is.

Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans
Yields 5 servings
Adapted from all around the internet.

½ lb string beans, trimmed (or as much will fit in a medium-sized jar)
1 c white vinegar
1 c water
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 t yellow mustard seeds
½ t whole peppercorns
2 t sugar
½ t salt
1 bay leaf
dash red pepper flakes
3 sprigs fresh dill

NOTE: We should mention that this works for about a 26-32 ounce jar. For the larger end of that range, add some water and vinegar to the brine before microwaving to add volume.

1) Place string beans upright in a 32-ounce glass jar. Trim any ends that reach the top of the jar. Add in dill sprigs.

2) Combine all other ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (or large measuring cup). Microwave for 90 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 90 seconds.

3) Pour mixture into jar, leaving ½ inch of space at the top. After you pour in the brine, if the jar's not full, add water and vinegar until it is. Screw on the lid.

4) Let cool to room temperature. Shake to distribute seeds and spices. Refrigerate.

5) Pickles are ready after four days, and will last a month in the fridge.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per serving:
32 calories, .3g fat, 3g fiber, 1.8g protein, $0.38

½ lb string beans: 136 calories, .5g fat, 15g fiber, 8g protein, $1.50
1 c white vinegar: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
1 c water: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, free
2 garlic cloves: 9 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, .5g protein, $0.10
1 t yellow mustard seeds: 15 calories, .9g fat, .5g fiber, .8g protein, $0.05
½ t whole peppercorns: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
2 t sugar: 33 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
½ t salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
1 bay leaf: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
dash red pepper flakes: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
3 sprigs fresh dill: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
TOTAL: 160 calories, 1.4g fat, 15g fiber, 9g protein, $1.91
PER SERVING (TOTAL/5): 32 calories, .3g fat, 3g fiber, 1.8g protein, $0.38

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