As we have alluded to many times on this blog, we are big fans of fermenting. Whether that is our daily shot of coffee kombucha, protein-packed kefir milkshakes or a spoonful of sauerkraut on the side, we will shoehorn something fermented into our daily meals.
This enthusiasm unfortunately has not rippled throughout the whole family, and I have been known to behave a bit like a drug pusher at times, sidling up to one of my long suffering teenagers, with a small plate filled with various fermented vegetables recently retrieved from a jar of somewhat murky looking liquid.
It doesn’t surprise me, to be fair, that they examine the contents closely from a range of angles, whilst sniffing with an expression of suspicion and faint disgust before ruminating on whether to accept or deny.
Over the years, my experimental approach to fermenting has produced somewhat curious results at times. ‘It’s all part of the fun’, I say. However, it seems that eating a soft and vinegary, slightly fizzy bean isn’t much fun, when it comes down to it.
As we mentioned recently in our blog post on Fire Cider, desperation usually leads our young folk towards the jar for a shot to blast away a cold, but I have rarely witnessed one of them actually choosing to eat something fermented because they like it….until now, that is.
Yes, the day has finally come. And I am as happy as a bean in brine!
So, the one that finally cracked it is garlic and chilli beans. Sublimely simple, yet, these beauties bring a host of flavours to your taste buds. I almost don’t need to write a recipe. You just have to put everything in a jar with salted water and a week later, you can munch away until your heart really is content.
Having said that, if you don’t like garlic and / or chilli, this one is probably not the one for you. Dearbhla Reynolds from The Cultured Club has an amazing recipe for garlic and dill beans – ‘Dilly Beans’ which were the first fermented beans I ever ate.
As with many of our fermented recipes, they have often come into being following a glut in our vegetable garden. I’m not so keen on chutney and after many salads and stews, I found myself a bit stuck for what to do with them. Although I freeze a lot of our homegrown harvests for winter meals, I loved the idea of fermenting veggies to support our immune system when we need it most.
It’s currently winter here, and whilst I tend to avoid buying fruit and vegetables out of season, this is the time of year that I feel we need bolstering, particularly when having to keep up with life during what should ideally be a gentler, more nurturing season.
If you are fortunate to have a glut of dwarf beans from your garden, this is a wonderful way to preserve them and create something that is really good for you. If you don’t, you can of course buy them from most supermarkets. It’s always worth checking where they were grown and if you live somewhere like us where during the winter months, our only option is imported beans from Kenya or Peru, I would hold fire until the summer when they can be sourced from closer to home.
Just before we get started, there are a couple of points to mention. When fermenting, make sure that all your equipment is clean, including your hands. You will need a sealable 1 litre Kilner-style jar. Also, a small glass ramekin is useful (eat a Gu dessert all in the name of fermentation) or if you are really serious, treat yourself to some fermenting weights. Etsy have some fab ceramic ones and Amazon do a pack of glass ones.
Kelley’s Fermented Garlic and Chilli Beans
- 1 1 litre glass jar with sealable lid
- 1 measuring jug
- 1 saucepan
- 1 glass ramekin or fermenting weight
- 300 g dwarf french beans
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves
- 3-5 slices chilli pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- 800 ml filtered water
- Add around half the water to the saucepan and heat gently.
- When the water is fairly hot, stir in the salt.
- When the salt has dissolved, allow to cool.
- Peel the garlic cloves leaving the last layer of skin if you can. Slice in half and add to the jar.
- Slice the chilli and set aside. (wash your hands). Feel free to add more if you love chillis. I'm just a bit of a lightweight where chilli is concerned.
- Trim the ends off the beans and place vertically in the jar. Pack tightly and push down firmly with your hand.
- Add the sliced chilli.
- Pour the salt water into the jar then top up with filtered water to cover the beans. If you are using a ramekin, make sure you can push it down and close the lid without the water overflowing.
- If using a fermenting weight, place it on top of the beans and ensure they are all submerged under the liquid. Aim to leave a 1-2cm gap between the water and the lid to allow for gas to escape.
- Seal the lid and place somewhere out of direct sunlight. The kitchen worktop is a handy spot so you don't forget about it but make sure it isn't near any heated appliances.
- Check after 3 days. You may see bubbling as the fermentation process gets into full swing. 'Burp' the jar to prevent gases building up by opening the lid for a short moment every other day.
- After 5 days, use a fork to lift a bean out and taste it. A fermented bean should still hold it's crunch but not taste raw. If you want a stronger flavour, leave for another day or 2.
- Store in the fridge and consume within 6 months.
You see. Simples!
I think the reason I like them is that they are so good either munched straight from the jar or added to a variety of meals, even breakfast!
I am partial to an antipasto kind of arrangement with my food. Breads, cheeses, olives, tapenade, cold meats and I think the garlic and chilli beans are a perfect accompaniment. In fact, most fermented vegetables are worthy of a space on my shared platter.
In the lead up to Christmas, colourful jars will appear along our kitchen workshop displaying all kinds of fermented delights in preparation for their post-Christmas performance alongside the leftovers. Just be sure not to heat them and kill all the happy gut bacteria.
Some final points to add. Even in the fridge, the beans will continue to slowly ferment and you may find that over time they become watery and less palatable. At this stage you can ditch the beans and re-use the liquid for another batch, if you fancy it.
As the beans ferment, their colour will fade and the liquid will become more cloudy. They are still perfectly edible, just less appealing to the eye.
Also, as you open and close the jar, you may notice a light white film on top of the liquid. This biofilm is produced by microorganisms and is harmless, just visibly concerning if you don’t know what it is.
The world of fermenting can be weird and wonderful. Many of the foods might look and taste strange to our sugar-coated palates, but once you delve in, you will discover that your taste buds become accustomed to the unusual flavours as your palate matures.
So, who’s in? Ask the teenagers, they’re in.
Well….sort of, for now at least.
I would love to hear of your own variations. Happy fermenting wildlings.
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