This recipe is lifted almost unchanged from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection. She credits it to Kathleen Field’s recipe in the Food Aid Cookbook. I’ve added a couple of footnotes of my own and produce it here after promising to do so elsewhere.
INGREDIENTS (makes around 6lb of pickle):
900g/2lb runner beans (weighed after trimming and slicing)
700g/1½lb onion, chopped (or a mixure of onion and shallots)
850ml/1½pints malt vinegar (but see below)
1 heaped tbsp mustard powder
1 rounded tbsp turmeric
225g/8oz soft brown sugar
450g/1lb demerara sugar
You will also need suitable jars. You could use fancy jars if you wish, but we tend to re-use old coffee jars, olive jars, jam jars and, naturally, pickle jars – anything that is glass with a good airtight screw-on lid and a wide opening at the top. Your jars should be washed and sterilised by first scrubbing them in hot soapy water, then rinsing them and placing them in a cool oven to dry and be warmed through.
- Using a large saucepan, add the onions and 275ml/10 fl oz malt vinegar.
- Simmer for 20 minutes or until the onion is soft.
- Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the onions.
- Mix the cornflour, mustard and turmeric with a little of the vinegar to make a smooth paste.
- Add this paste to the onion/bean mixture. BE WARNED – this stuff stains!
- Add the rest of the vinegar (but see below) and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in both lots of sugar (best done in stages) and ensure it all dissolves.
- Simmer for a further 15 minutes (but see below).
- Fill your warmed jars and seal.
- Store for a month before eating. We usually manage to keep it stored for about a week before we succumb to temptation.
My experience is that you may not need the quanity of vinegar suggested, as it isn’t the only source of fluid in this recipe. Some fluid will comes from the beans – how much will depend on how much rain you’ve had and how watery your beans are. If the beans are fat and juicy, you’ll need less vinegar. I’ve not needed this quantity of vinegar when I’ve made it, perhaps 75% is enough.
I’ve also found that the last stage of simmering can be extended with very favourable results. It depends how you like your pickle, but I like it to be a little soft with the beans still nicely defined (not an amorphous gloop), but not under-done. So I tend to extend the last stage of the simmering to half an hour or more.
This pickle is good with cheese but absolutely wonderful with cold roast chicken or roast ham. Actually, it goes with more-or-less anything. It’s very moreish.