Summer holds such promise – big, bountiful gardens, lots of fruits and vegetables, excellent foraging and amazing farmer’s markets. In deep winter I plan all the amazing things I will do with summer produce, along with the great blog posts I will make to accompany them. Then summer hits me like a full bucket of water, and I am deluged with the harvest.
Oh, the best laid plans. Once my garden starts producing for real in late July, it is all I can do to keep up with cooking, eating, canning, pickling, drying, freezing and fermenting. Fire sale for 1 month only! I am shoving cucumbers into crocks to ferment, fruit into ziplock bags to freeze, tomatoes into jars to can, and beets and beans into jars to pickle. I can barely keep up with my garden and preserving, let alone my blog.
To keep pace, I do two things, one in my garden and one in my kitchen. First off, when I stop by the garden to harvest something, I pick absolutely everything I can. When I pick cucumbers and zucchini, I pick every one, from big mamas to tiny babies. I do the same for green beans – I pick the full size ones as well as the little “haricot vert” beans that are a few inches long and very thin. This gives me a wide variety of sizes, which I can sort if needed, but also enough volume for meaningful preserving.
Secondly, I do a lot of small batch preserves, preserving as I go. I will pickle a few jars at a time, but make extra brine for the next time, which speeds up the process considerably. Small batch works particularly well for fermenting and pickling.
Which all brings me to dilly beans. My pole bean patch looked amazing this year, six feet high, 8 feet long, a wall of green. It was packed with vines and flowers. Then a big wind storm hit and knocked it over. Dang it! We were on vacation. When I got home, I propped it back up and picked the first big batch of beans. I had over 5 lbs. I sorted out the night firm longish beans for pickling, and left the smaller, thinner beans for cooking. This recipe has classic dill pickle flavor, packed into green beans. Pickled beans have a wonderful texture, kind of a squeaky crunch when you eat them, followed by that sour tang. You can make a couple quarts in under an hour.