Pickled Green Beans

Look at the pile of green beans I have to deal with. I fully acknowledge that it was my idea to plant them all, which I did because I like to have enough at one time to turn into dilly beans, and if I am going to heat up the canner, and make a big mess in the kitchen, I want to do two or three batches at one time.

Then there is that week in August – this one just past – when everything and more happens. The island’s Sewing Circle Fair engulfs two days minimum between moving all the stuff from the Circle building up to the school, spreading it all out, making sandwiches for the lunch, baking for the bakery table, making fudge to sell by the bit, bite, and pound, and picking and arranging flowers and vegetables. Concerts, lectures, potlucks, visits with summer friends who often are here for a short, quickly-passing two weeks, and ongoing work in the garden.

So, in this context, a pile of greens beans can look a bit daunting, to say the very least and I start looking for an easy way out.

The recipe below makes an elegant little pickle, a nice variation from the old dilly bean thing. And it is very simple, do-able by the jar in case you don’t have a whole pile, and best of all does not require a canner. I know it is heretical, but in conversations with friends, I have discovered that some do not process their pickles in a canner at all, relying on the strength of salt and vinegar, and the fact that when the hot pickling liquid cools, it creates a seal when the lid pops down. Most of the time, when I see these kinds of preserving instructions in print, they recommend refrigerating the pickles. Of course, that is the safest thing to do.

However, I happen to know that for millennia, humans preserved vegetables by putting them in vinegar and salt and leaving them lying around in crocks, relying on salt and acid, and the coolness of cellars to do the keeping. Personally, I don’t always process my pickles. Mind you, I don’t recommend it, I’m just saying that I don’t.

The other thing I don’t do is use the chile pepper. I know a lot of you really enjoy a capsicum bite. Be my guest.

Pickled Green Beans


Green or wax beans, stem ends trimmed, and cut to fit the jar


For each pint jar of beans:

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

½ easpoon coriander seeds

10-12 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 small dried chile, or a few flakes of crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup white wine

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Pack the beans vertically in a clean, sterilized pint jar, allowing half an inch of head room. Add the garlic, coriander seeds, chile pepper, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Boil the vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt together until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the hot mixture to the jar. Put sterilized lids on the jar and adjust the rings. Let cool. The lid may or may not make a seal. Refrigerate until use. Allow a couple days before using so flavors will develop.

Makes one pint of pickles.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.