Spiced pickled beans

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Rather than leaving them on the plant to toughen, pick beans when they're small and bottle them while in preserving jars. Fine French beans are the nicest, but baby runners are also delicious. These spicy beans are fantastic in a bloody Mary, and I love eating them as an aperitif instead of olives.

Makes 2 x 450g jars

  • 500g French beans, ideally about 7cm long, topped and tailed
  • 3 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 3 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 600ml white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • large bunch of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice and thickly pared peel of 2 oranges
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the beans and boil for 1 minute. Drain well.

Place the pickling spice and peppercorns on a small square of muslin and tie with string to make a bag. Place in a large, stainless steel saucepan with the vinegar, salt, sugar, bay leaves, dill, garlic, orange juice and peel. Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the muslin bag, bay leaves and garlic clove. Leave to cool.

Pack the beans upright into dry, warm, sterilised jars (you can sterilise them in a very hot dishwasher, or boil them in a pan of water for 10 minutes). Make sure the beans are at least 2.5 cm below the top of the jars. Add the chilli and pour in the vinegar mixture. Seal and label with the date.

These beans are best kept for a couple of months before eating as the flavour improves with storing. Unopened, they keep for years. Once open, store in the fridge and eat within a couple of weeks.

This recipe appears on p.331 of Sarah Raven's Food for Friends and Family Cookbook.