We never thought much of pickles until we tasted crisp cauliflower, carrot, daikon and green bean pickles at Tao Cafe Restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Mission in San Francisco. They were crisp, fresh and completely addictive. Even our girls kept coming back to the sour crunchy veggies and ate their fill before the imperial rolls got to our table. Last week we saw beautiful green beans at our local market in the south of France and my husband decided to re-create these yummy pickles. Inspired by this recipe from All Recipes, I orchestrated these pickles using the wild fennel that grows between the rows of grapes in the vineyards behind my father’s house. Wild fennel is so easy to find on walks in the Bay Area and elsewhere that I thought it would be fun to combine culinary delight with a foraging adventure.
Heap of string beans
Filling the jars – horizontally
Before the vinegar brine
- 1 pounds fresh green beans, as slim as possible – washed and dried
- 2/3 pound butter beans – washed and dried
- 2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup salt – I used coarse salt, it melts when you heat up the brine
- 1 clove garlic, peeled – I used pink garlic
- 1 bunch fresh wild fennel
- I sterilized 3 pint jars (or 6 1/2 pint jars) by washing them under hot water first, then leaving them 20 minutes in a 400F oven.
- My husband, who’s good at detailed work, trimmed the beans to 1/4 inch shorter than the jars. The leftover beans can be used to fill the center of the jars or be used in a salad later in the day.
- In a large saucepan, I heated up the vinegar, water, garlic and salt. Once the liquid reached a rolling boil, I left it 5 minutes and turned it off.
- To fill the jars so that the beans would be standing vertically, we found a nifty trick. We lay the jars on their sides so that we were really layering the beans on top of one another. In each jar, I place 3 to 4 sprigs of wild fennel and packed it with green beans. If I could, I squeezed a few shorter beans in the center so no space would be lost..
- Once I had prepared 3 full jars, I brought the vinegar mixture to a quick boil and ladled it immediately (without the garlic) into the jars, filling them to within 1/4 inch of the tops. My husband sealed the jars with lids and rings.
- I placed the jars in a hot water bath so they are covered by 1 inch of water and brought the water to a simmer for 10 minutes to process. I paid attention to not let the water get to a boiling point because they would have cooked and lost their crispness.
- I let the jars cool to room temperature and tested them for a good seal – when you press on the center of the lid, it should not move.
- Now the hard part began. We had to let the pickles ferment for 2 to 3 weeks before eating. I said a temporary bye-bye to the 3 jars in a dark cupboard and closed the doors. I’ve never been good at waiting but a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do to get the perfect pickles. Zen.