We have a love of live fermented foods around here. Kimchi. Sauerkraut. Kombucha. Kefir. Yogurt. Sourdough. The list varies by season, but these make regular appearances on the "live food" shelf in our fridge (yes, an entire devoted shelf).
This summer our bean tower was threatening to topple from the weight of the green and purple pods dangling from it, so Lupine and I harvested great baskets full and spent some time making live-fermented dilly beans.
Live-ferments vs. Grandma's Pickles: what is the difference?
The pickles my grandma made were pickled in vinegar and then canned. They were cooked and sterile by the end of the process. The pickles and beans that my grandma's grandma made (and theat we make) were a live fermented food. They are never cooked, simply brined in a solution of 3T salt to 4C water. They retain loads of the nutrients from the living vegetable, plus the benefit of the probiotics from lactofermentation (natural fermentation of the veggies in the brin).
The flavor is different and they are not shelf-stable, but they are delicious beyond words and great for intestinal health. This year we have experimented with lactofermenting all sorts of vegetable bounty. Radishes were one of our favorites.
Dilly Bean Tutorial
Harvest (or buy) fresh beans. Wash and trim off stem end.
Dissolves 3T salt in 4 C water (warm some of the water to make this step easier).
Arrange beans in clean mason jars. Add garlic and dill, and pour brine over beans.
Set a clean drinking glass (or scrubbed rock!) in the top of the jar to hold the beans beneath the brine solution (that's the bright green object in the center jar below).
Cover tops of jars with cheesecloth or other thin fabric and let the magic happen! Set on your counter in an out-of-the-way place, and over the next several days your fresh beans will become delicious dilly beans. (Note: the brine should be salty-tasting, but not disturbingly so. If it is too salty, drain off a bit of brine and mix in some fresh water.)
Check daily and when they taste just the way you like 'em (normally within 2-5 days), remove the glass or rock, cap, and fridge. They'll continue to fermet a bit move as they live (literally) in your fridge, but they are unlikely to spoil.
Two amazing books to learn more about this deliciousness are Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation. (I had the delight of seeing the Wild Fermentation author, Sandor Katz speak at our local Country Fair last month and got to ask him some questions that have been nagging me. It was fabulous!) Another great resource is the Weston A. Price Foundation.
If you have questions for me, bring 'em on. I love this stuff and am happy to help.