YEARS AGO, I MET AN OLD BLOKE WITH A DONKEY RETURNING FROM HIS HUERTA, HIS BASKETS FULL OF GREEN BEANS. THE SUN WAS LOW IN THE SKY BUT STILL WARM. HE LIVED IN A GROUP OF SQUAT LITTLE STONE HOUSES NEAR A TOWN CALLED PIEDRAHÍTA, A FEW HOURS WEST OF MADRID. HIS SHED WAS LIKE A MUSEUM, WITH CARTS AND DONKEY HARNESSES AND PIECES OF EQUIPMENT THAT HAVEN’T BEEN USED FOR SO LONG THAT ONLY HE CAN REMEMBER WHAT THEY ARE CALLED. BUT HE HAD A PILE OF JARS IN A BOX IN HIS SHED THAT HE HAD SAVED FOR THE TWO WIDOWS WHO LIVED IN THE VILLAGE. HE SAID HE GAVE THEM THE JARS AND BEANS, AND THEY IN RETURN PRESERVED THEM FOR HIM. LATER THAT NIGHT I ARRIVED IN MADRID AND CAUGHT UP WITH A FRIEND. YOUNG AND SINGLE, WE WENT OUT TO A CLUB, LOOKING FOR FUN. LATER, VERY HUNGRY, WE SAT DOWN AT A TABLE, SMOKING AND SHARING A LATE-NIGHT SNACK. FUNNILY ENOUGH, IT WAS A JAR OF PRESERVED BEANS! I RECKON THESE PARTICULAR BEANS ARE GREAT WITH A WINTER SALAD — A SPLASH OF GREEN ON A PLATE.
Wash and sterilise four
Dissolve the sea salt in
Working from the top, cut the beans to just under the height of the jar. Cook the beans in two batches in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until nearly tender. Refresh in iced water, then drain and arrange upright in the sterilised jars. Cover with the salted lemon water and seal.
Place an old plate on the bottom of a large heavy-based saucepan so the jars are not in direct contact with the base of the pan. Place the jars on the plate and transfer to the stovetop. Fill with enough cold water to cover the jars, then turn the heat to high. When the temperature reaches 80°C (175°F), reduce the heat and adjust it to keep the temperature at roughly 80°C (175°F) for 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the jars from the water and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Once opened, the beans will keep, refrigerated, for 2-3 days.
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