Dilly Beans in a Snap!

Growing up in rural Maine many folks had gardens. If you didn’t, most farms had self-service produce stands where you could select fresh vegetables and baskets of sun-ripened peaches or berries, deposit your money in a tin can and even make change, if needed!

Every year in late summer, a favorite aunt always made a special Dilly Bean recipe with the summer harvest of string beans from her garden. She produced dozens of jars and generously gave them away at Christmas to friends and relatives. Everyone loved receiving her special homemade gift, but little did we realize (or appreciate) all the time and energy she put into each jar! It was an arduous process which involved sterilizing jars and lids, preparing the beans, mixing a special pickling concoction and ladling it over the beans while they stood upright in Mason jars. It was quite a science, too. She had to leave adequate space at the top of each jar, remove air bubbles, place the hot lid on each jar making sure it was equally centered on the top, adjust the band to ensure a tight fit and then boil the jars in a water canner for an additional 10 minutes. Then, 24 hours later, she had to re-check each jar to ensure the lid was properly sealed. What a lot of work!

In later years, when I had a family of my own, I decided to try to duplicate the taste of my aunt’s dilly beans without duplicating the effort. Using many of her ingredients but not the canning supplies, special jars or her fool-proof water bath I tasted success! You’ll find this recipe very tasty and much less labor-intensive than my aunt’s old-fashioned method, and it’s ready to eat now – no waiting until Christmas!

1 pound fresh string beans, washed and trimmed
8 ounces vinegar (preferably, white balsamic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sprigs fresh green dill, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon dill seeds
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed (optional)
Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, salt and pepper to taste

Steam or parboil string beans until your desired tenderness. If you like crispy beans, this will only take 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients: vinegar, olive oil, dill, garlic, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Toss beans in the dressing, add salt and pepper to taste, garnish with almonds and enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve!

Judi Bauer