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Paz's Dilly Wax Beans

Paz's Dilly Wax Beans

Last week marked the one year anniversary of the passing of a dear friend of ours, Paz. Paz, who had a last name but really was simply known by his first one (because why do you need a last name if Paz is your first?) was kind of fixture in the Chicago vegan community. He was a man who gave the impression of being just a laid-back hippie (he was actually at Woodstock and had a interesting cameo in the film as well) but he had layers of complexity, character and enough rich, loamy emotional depth to be any writer’s fantasy subject. My husband and I were lucky to call him our friend, babysitter, dog sitter, cat sitter, plant whisperer, and the moral center of any event we’d planned. He’d be there -- usually a few hours after he’d aimed to be -- making sure that all the recyclables were eventually placed in the care he felt was the most scrupulous and trustworthy.

Paz would travel hours and hours on public transportation and a rusty bike just to take the assorted detritus he’d found on the street and meticulously sorted to the various places he trusted: to the far south suburbs, to Michigan, to some place out west. I think his attentiveness was due to his role as a sort of patron saint to the world’s orphans and castaways: not just focused on recyclables, Paz also made sure that all the senior ladies at parties had someone who paid attention to them (he was always chivalrous and charming even in his old Hemp Fest t-shirts) and made them feel special. The ladies would giggle and blush. He was very thoughtful in that way. Even during the last few months of his life, I remember a little plant he carried around with him that had just one or two leaves that had some life in them. Even when he had a lot of physical pain and worries, he wasn’t going to give up on a withered little common houseplant that could be revived. That was Paz.

Anyway, this is all to say that Paz was a very interesting person with a lot of integrity and depth but he wasn’t a saint. If he didn’t like something, you’d hear about it and sometimes in pretty blunt terms. I cooked many meals for Paz over the years when he showed up around dinner time, and many would be up to snuff, but if they weren’t - and even if they were - I’d hear his critiques. “Not sweet enough!” “Too spicy.” “Were you out of salt?”  Pleasing Paz with anything - a drawing, an article, a meal - was not usually possible without a nice dollop of criticism, and that is okay because it made his compliments feel that much more sincere. When he liked something, he was effusive about it, and it was as if I had pleased the most finicky restaurant critic.

I made a version of these wax beans a few years ago when we got the yellow beans in our CSA box and I was looking for something to do with them. I made a few jars of these beans and sent a jar with my husband to give to Paz. He loved them. He called me to ask about them, how I made them, what the ingredients were. He kept bringing them up every time I saw him: You know, I loved those wax beans, Marla. Delicious! Every summer since then, I had been meaning to make Paz more wax beans but I didn’t. Life was busy. I was caring for my mother. I didn’t want to turn the stovetop on in the summer. I’d do it next week. But the days and weeks and years dissolved like salt in brine and the wax beans didn’t materialize. I have no excuses. I will only say that if you have someone who is treasured in your life and he or she enjoys something as simple as your wax beans, you should really make some and give a jar or two to your friend at least a couple times a year because you never do know if you won’t get the chance again. And if you don’t, you’ll regret that you didn’t. Trust me.

Paz, these wax beans are for you, wherever you are. And for those reading, I hope you enjoy them as much as he did. They are easy and quick to make, not something that requires a hot water bath because these are a small quantity you can just keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Remember that as these haven’t gone through a water bath, they are not shelf stable and must be stored in the fridge and be eaten within a few weeks. This shouldn’t be a problem.

Paz's Dilly Wax Beans

3 cups wax beans, trimmed
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider, white or organic white wine vinegar (apple cider will make the brine more yellow)
1 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
8 springs fresh dill weed
4 cloves garlic, cut in half long ways
2 teaspoons peppercorns (I like the tri-colored ones)
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Makes one 24-ounce and one 16-ounce pint mason jars

Sterilize your mason jars in a water bath or in the dishwasher.

Heat the water, vinegar and salt in a medium pot on the stove top until just starting to boil.

While this is heating up, place the dill, garlic, peppercorns and crushed red pepper in your jars. Holding your jars to the side, add the wax beans (standing them upright) until you can’t add any more. Pour in the water-vinegar brine using a ladle or a funnel, and cover with the tops and ring, screwing them on tightly.  (You may want to have kitchen towels folded between your hands and the jars because it can get hot.) Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then place in the fridge. They are ready to eat in 24 hours and the flavor develops over time.

2014 Vegan Street

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