Whenever I think of fava beans, I think of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal and his famous scene describing how he paired one of his victim’s livers with fava beans and “a nice chianti.” This iconic scene has forever made me associate fava beans with deep rich flavors and that creepy slurping noise he makes while talking to Clarice.
And while fava beans do pair nicely with butter and richly flavored proteins, they’re just as good in the opposite direction, pickled with the bright flavors of dill, garlic, and chili peppers. This is fortuitous because when the garden starts throwing fava beans, it throws them all at the same time. The first few full-sized beans that emerged from the plants were just enough for dinner. I left for a week and came back to more ripe favas than I knew what to do with.
Fava beans, like most beans and peas that are shelled, have a fairly short shelf life once picked. It’s best to eat them fresh or preserve by drying or freezing them immediately. Another option is to pickle some. I use a cold pickle recipe to preserve these beans instead of a hot pickle to retain as much of their fresh texture as possible. Fresh fava beans have a nice crispness that is lost with high-heat pickles.
The method is simple—shell the beans and sort them by size. You can be a lumper or a splitter here, it's up to you how particular you want to get with this step. But I sort them into two piles: small to large and extra-large. The largest beans are tougher and best for drying. Everything smaller is tender and perfect for cooking fresh, pickling, or freezing.
From there, make the pickling brine, cool it down, and cover the beans with the liquid. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks to allow the brine to penetrate the beans completely. These will last weeks to a few months in the fridge.
I add them to salads, serve them alongside charcuterie, and eat them straight out of the jar. Use them wherever you would use pickled veggies, they add texture, acid, and bright flavors to any dish. You could serve them with some lightly seared venison liver and Chianti and pay homage to one of the creepiest villains in cinema. Though I think I would prefer a Rhone with my liver and fava beans.
- 1 lb. fresh fava beans, shelled
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 clump of fresh dill
- 1 whole dried ancho chili
Also works with
- Combine all ingredients except for the beans and dill in a saucepan. Heat over medium until just under a simmer and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Cut the heat and add the dill, refrigerate and cool completely.
- Pack fresh beans into a clean non-reactive container. Cover with the cooled brine, cover with lid and refrigerate for 7 to 14 days until brine has completely penetrated the beans. Taste test every few days after a week. Keep refrigerated.