It’s odd how sometimes mentioning something, even to dismiss it, can spark a smouldering interest which you find yourself returning to later; and having sorted out my french bean surplus without resorting to the ‘piccalilli’ solution, I still needed to do something with my continuing bumper crop of runner beans. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of making a mustard pickle for the store cupboard, but to be honest, most of the recipes I found on the internet had an almost 1950s-austerity-period parsimony to them – as though the idea was to eke out the supply of beans and flavours, rather than pack them into the available jars.
I looked at the Delia recipe for spiced pickled runner beans, which seemed to be directly related to a much older WI recipe, and a Welsh recipe which mercifully came with an English translation but like everything else I found, they didn’t seem to pack the punch of either beans or spices that I was looking for. So I used these as my starting point, and by increasing the quantity of both beans and spices (compared to vinegar and sugar), arrived at the following, pungent, bean-packed pickle:
David’s Runner Bean Mustard Pickle
25g plain flour
140g English mustard powder (Colman’s)
30g celery salt
100g dried garlic flakes
900ml white malt vinegar
25g black mustard seed, ‘popped’ in
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1.25kg runner beans
500g Demerara or other pale brown sugar
Combine the flour, mustard powder, celery salt, turmeric and dried garlic with 600ml of the vinegar in a large bowl, to form a thin paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan with a lid and ‘pop’ the mustard seeds.
Top and tail the beans and ‘string’ them if necessary, then chop them on the diagonal into 2.5-4.0cm pieces; drop into a very large pan of boiling water, return to the boil, cook for 15 minutes and drain. Return the beans to the pan and pour the remaining vinegar over them, to help preserve the colour.
Add the mustard seeds and oil, and then the paste, and stir everything together gently but thoroughly. Return to the heat, add the sugar and cook for 10-15 minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved and the whole mixture is bubbling gently, making sure it doesn’t stick and that the raw flour taste is cooked out.
Meanwhile, sterilise your jars by washing them inside and out in hot soapy water; rinse well, dry, arrange in a roasting tin and heat in the oven at 140ºC for 10 minutes. Put the roasting tin on a heatproof surface and fill the jars with the very hot chutney, and cover immediately.
If you use acid- and vinegar-proof screw-top metal lids, the chutney will retain its moisture content and remain quite soft, but if you use cellophane covers held in place with elastic bands, some of the moisture will gradually evaporate, giving you a denser chutney.