Zydeco Beans

Zydeco Beans

Last night sitting on the back patio at a friends house, we engaged in a lively discussion of the meaning of the word “penultimate”.  It means “second to last.”  It got interesting though when you consider our negative connotation of “last.”  We don’t think of coming in last as the “ultimate” do we?  I liked the analogy that Holly brought up:  Think of climbing a mountain.  The last part is the peak, the highest part, the goal, the… ultimate.  In the Tour de France, Philip pointed out, the penultimate stage is the second to the last stage.  What does this have to do with pickles you may be asking yourself?  Those who know me well, know that I have been a bit fascinated with pickling things for quite some years now.  Before medical school I used to spend my summers canning and pickling, but in the busy years of school I have discovered the blessed “quick” pickle.  And believe me they are a blessing.  The are so easy to make.  Last christmas I made a bunch of pickles for a party and Sadie said I needed to write a “Pickle Manifesto”  for my blog.  I have been thinking about that ever since.  Writing a manifesto is just too big of an assignment for me.  That’s why I have a blog instead of a cookbook.  Also too big.  My life is very busy.  I just barely have enough time for a quick pickle and a short blog post.  Therefore, consider this my penultimate pickle manifesto, and be pleasantly surprised, but don’t hold your breath for the ultimate pickle manifesto to be written.

Do pickles have health benefits?  There are many health benefits of traditionally fermented pickles.  Fermented foods are a great way to increase the beneficial flora in our digestive systems.  The quick pickles that I have been making are not fermented however, they are bathed briefly in vinegar and spices.  I find that they are a delicious way to eat more vegetables, which has to be a good thing!  I speculate also that if pickles were eaten before meals, the vinegar would stimulate the production of digestive enzymes which primes the stomach to be able to digest the upcoming meal.

One of my favorite pickle cookbooks is by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, Quick Pickles: Easy Recipes with Big Flavor, and lately I have been using The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, which is chock full of every kind of pickle recipe you could imagine.

Just to illustrate my pickle crazed state, I confess I spent yesterday in 100 degree Oregon weather canning pickled beans.  I was dripping with sweat, but happy.  Here is the recipe, adapted from The Joy of Pickling:

Zydeco Beans

3 pounds yellow wax beans trimmed to fit into a pint canning jar

6 garlic cloves, 6 fresh serrano peppers, 6 dill heads, 6 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

31/2 cups white wine vinegar

31/2 cups water

2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher

Into each of 6 clean pint jars, put a garlic clove, pepper, dill head, and teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Pack the beans vertically into the jars fitting as many as you can in each jar.  Packing the Beans

In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil.  Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Close the jars with two piece caps.  Process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Store the cooled jars for at least 3 weeks before eating them.  Store in the refrigerator after opening.

Wax beans

Wax beans

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