Lightly adapted from Kevin West's Saving the Season. A note on salt: volume measurements for salt vary dramatically from brand to brand, so weighing the salt is your best bet. That said, the 6 ounces called for here will equal about 3/4 cup of Morton's coarse flakes. On weighing: the crucial thing in fermentation is not to have the vegetables exposed to the air; you want them fully submerged in the brine. As West suggests, the easiest, least expensive way to do this is simply to fill a Ziploc bag with extra brine (a 5 percent salt-to-water ratio, just in case it leaks) and use the bag to push the beans down under the brine. It works surprisingly well. —Nicholas Day
small green beans
garlic cloves, crushed
flowering dill heads, or 4 to 6 dill fronds plus 2 tablespoons dill seeds (optional)
Heat the water just until the salt dissolves. Cool to room temperature.
Trim the stem ends from the beans. Then layer them and the other ingredients in either a 2-gallon crock or a couple of 1-gallon jars. Cover with the brine. Weigh the beans down -- see note above -- and place the crock or jars in a relatively dark place at room temperature. The crock or jars should be covered, but not tightly sealed, so that gases produced during fermentation can escape. If using a crock without a lid, cover it with a plate or board and drape with a clean dish towel. If using jars, screw lids on loosely or remove the rubber seal (if using the style of jar pictured).
Bubbles will appear in 4 or 5 days. Skim any floating scum off the surface daily. (It's supposed to be there; don't let it worry you.) Taste occasionally. The beans should be fully pickled in about 2 weeks. Once they are ready, just refrigerate the beans in the brine. They will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much slower rate. Eat within a couple of months.