I'll go out on a limb here and say it: green beans might just be the ideal pickling vegetable. This blanket statement comes from the fact that I've eaten many, many pickled beans and all of them have been nothing short of enjoyable. Somehow their snappy nature survives a good long soak in the pickling brine and their sweet freshness comes through every time, whether they're garnishing an exemplary Bloody Mary or eaten straight out of the jar.
This recipe for quick-pickled Szechuan Beans from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up! takes the green bean's snappy nature and pairs it with the numbing heat of Szechuan peppercorns for a jar of beans that won't last long in the fridge.
They're infused with a perfect balance of the five primary taste sensations. The sweetness comes from the sugar; the acidity from cider vinegar; the salt by way of soy sauce; a slight vegetal bitterness from the barely blanched beans; and heat from the Szechuan peppercorns, garlic, and ginger.
Anticipating the success of these pickles, I made a big batch, some to serve the evening they were prepared and a few jars to store in the fridge for later. The beans that I served still-warm from the blanch were incredible, with plenty of flavorful marinade to dress some accompanying rice. But I have even higher hopes for the jars aging in the fridge. This is one of those cases where a bit of age will only accentuate the flavors.
- 1 pound green beans, washed, topped, and tailed
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, preferably Szechuan
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger, sliced into coins
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
Line several baking sheets with dish towels and set aside. Prepare and ice-water bath in a large bowl or clean sink.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the beans into the water, no more than 1 pound at a time, and return to a boil. Blanch for 1 minute.
Scoop the beans out with a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice-water bath. Continue blanching in batches. Remove the beans from the ice bath with a slotted spoon and spread on the towel-covered baking sheets. Blot dry.
To make the pickles, pack the beans vertically in a quart jar.
Combine the vinegar, water, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, peppercorns, ginger, and garlic in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour the hot brine over the beans to cover by 1/2 inch. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.
Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.