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Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans

The kitchen garden at work is now in full swing yet the Garden Tours are finished for another year... I couldn’t bare the idea of all that beautiful produce going to waste, so I enlisted the help of my mum, drove down to Berkshire armed with every Kilner jar I could lay my hands on, and set about preserving everything in sight… thus these yellow beans met their delicious fate.

They’re a triumph and frankly I’m obsessed. I’ve pinched full inspiration for these “Dilly Beans” from Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation. Katz’s tome doesn’t contain recipes as such, but rather the guiding principles and methodologies of fermentation, endless inspiration, scientific explanations, and cultural history. You only need one resource on the subject, and this is it.

In terms of flavour and usage imagine these to be an English answer to olives or pickled guindilla peppers..! They have a slightly sour brine-y flavour, which is spiked with dill, garlic & fennel. They retain their crunch, yet don’t taste raw. And they go perfectly with an ice-cold drink before dinner. Beans any other way I can take or leave, but these are something very special.

The method here is identical to that of the Dill Pickles. We are working with the brine method of fermentation, and thus using a salt solution with a ratio of 4% - so for 1 litre of water, for example, that’s 40g of sea salt… I can’t offer a recipe as such, as this will depend on how many beans you are preserving and/or the size of your Kilner jar. But if you read the explanation below you can’t go wrong!



green and yellow beans

pink peppercorns, approximately 1 tablespoon

fennel seeds, approximately 1 tablespoon

dill, approximately 1 handful

garlic, approximately 3 cloves

flaky sea salt



Rinse out your Kilner jar, and wash your chopping board, knife and hands well. Also rinse the beans of any dirt, and top and tail them if you wish.

Tip the salt into a small saucepan along with a cup of the water. Add the fennel seeds, pink peppercorns and sliced garlic. Warm this on a medium heat, stirring often, until the salt has fully dissolved, and then mix this back into the remaining water. The advantage of dissolving the salt in only a cup of the water, as opposed to the full quantity, is that it then cools down quickly; the advantage of adding the aromatics whilst the water warms is that the flavours infuse a little more.

Pack the beans into the Kilner jar, adding whole strands of dill as you go.

Once the brine is cool (at least to room temperature) pour this into the jar, just until it covers all the beans.

Inset the croc weights so they neatly cover the top of the beans and keep everything submerged below the water line. This is important as below the water only lactic acid bacteria can grow; above the water line it’s possible that moulds can grow too, which will compromise the Dilly Beans.

Pop on the lid and leave the jar somewhere peaceful, out of direct sunlight. But for how long..?! This is the trickiest question to answer in the world of fermenting…

Exactly how long to leave your beans fermenting depends on the temperature of your kitchen and your personal preference. The longer vegetables are left to ferment at room temperature the stronger and more acidic they will taste, and the softer their texture will become. I recommend tasting the Dilly Beans each day and observing the changes – it’s a fascinating process! You’ll soon identify how you like your ferments to taste, and how to control this result each time. On this occasion, a week at room temperature has been ideal.

Once you’re happy with your Dilly Beans, transfer them into a suitable jar for the fridge where they can then be held indefinitely. The bacteria will remain ‘live’ and they will continue to ferment, but imperceptibly. Once in the fridge the texture and flavour is more-or-less fixed.

I should say, if you are using a Kilner Jar, rather than a fermentation set with an air lock, it’s important to ‘burp’ the jar each day. This prevents too much pressure building up within the jar as carbon dioxide is given off during the fermentation process.

Please get in touch if you have any questions!


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