Not the prettiest pictures; actually they are so unappealing to look at, I take a certain contrarian pleasure posting them on a food blog where there’s the expectation that food needs to be beautiful. (The reality is ferments often lose a lot of their initial vivid colour.)
Even if visually not so lovely, fermented Snippled Beans are an easy and delicious side dish.
I’ve often wondered about fermenting fresh summer green beans (string beans, French beans, and in Britain, runner beans especially) and puzzled that even Sandor Katz gives a singular vinegar pickle for “dilly beans” in Wild Fermentation.
Then I found this recipe leafing through William Woys Weaver‘s Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking, a wonderful exploration of traditional foodways and creative farm cooking straddling the old and the new.
“Snippled Beans is sauerkraut made with string beans,” writes Weaver. “It is a practical idea not only because it disposes of end-of-summer abundance in a useful way but also because ‘beankraut’ is pleasantly mild.” Weaver’s recipe is one for preservation, and when you are ready to use the beans, you rinse and cook them (and serve hot or cold with vinegar (!) and black pepper.
Of course we now eat so many of our fermented vegetables raw, and Snippled Beans are delicious uncooked as well.
In the case of this ferment, I wanted to give a go to fermenting frozen green beans. I was just curious, because a pretty big bag of 750 grams is an economical £1, and in my mind preferable to manicured green beans air-freighted from far, far away (which are far more expensive, as a boutique ingredient). Of course the best solution is to eat beans in season, and if you grow them yourself you may have plenty extra to play with and preserve. Experimenting in April with the frozen ones is a bit of practice for summer.
I shredded the defrosted beans in the food processor . My shreds weren’t lovely but were functional. In fact the historic snipplers are not dissimilar design-wise from my modern, electric machine, both being revolving disks.
photo thanks to Recipe Link
This approach to snippling beans has you layer them in a crock with salt, tamping down to release fluid as you go. The expectation is that if they’re too salty you’ll rinse them later. (There’s a tradition of salt-preserving runner beans in Britain, different from fermenting). William Weaver’s recipe calls for 10 pounds fresh stringbeans to 1 cup sea salt (5kg/ 250grams). You mash them down with an implement like a potato masher, until liquid rises, pretty much the way many of us imagine straightforward fermenting in brine these days.
My first attempt with the defrosted frozen beans was really good. I’d say I used a generous tablespoon of salt for the bag. The result was really good, savoury and moreish. I added a ready made curry powder to my second attempt, because curried beans is such a classic.
Also really good! Of course the thought to add dill and chili and garlic etc is wonderful, as would be the flavours of a British runner bean chutney– turmeric and mustard, and perhaps applying some techniques from kimchi-making as in this method for fermented piccalilli.
Now looking forward to proper runner bean season!