Once the darling of cocktail parties, dilly beans remain a popular staple on buffet and picnic tables.
In 1960 Time magazine noted a new snack that had commandeered the cocktail party circuit: “Rarely has the discerning palate been assailed by a less pretentious offering: a raw string bean, pickled in vinegar and dill. Yet the Dilly Bean … had captured the fancy of cocktail-hour nibblers on the East and West coasts and was rapidly making tycoons out of two ex-schoolmarms who run Manhattan’s Park & Hagna Inc. . . . People also serve Dilly Beans in martinis, salads, sandwiches, cream cheese, and beef Stroganoff–and have discovered that poodles love them.” The “ex-schoolmarms” were two savvy young New Jersey teachers named Sonya Hagna and Jacquelyn Park, who’d come up with the formula and were selling the beans to specialty markets in New York. They eventually left the classroom, and their beans went on to national fame. Properly canned, these tart, crunchy dilled beans will keep for months–the perfect holiday or housewarming gift.
2 pounds fresh green beans, stems removed
8-10 sprigs fresh dill
4 medium cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons coarse or pickling salt
1-1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Wash beans, then cut into lengths 1/2 inch shorter than jar. Fill a 3- to 4-quart pot with enough water to cover the beans by an inch. Set pot over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook just 1-1/2 minutes. Drain, then plunge into ice water to stop cooking; drain. Pack beans tightly into fully sterilized jars. Add 2 or 3 sprigs of dill and a few slices of garlic to each jar.
Add vinegar, water, salt, fennel, and flakes to the pot. Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Boil 1 minute, then pour over beans, filling each jar to 1/2 inch from top. Remove air bubbles by tapping jars lightly; wipe rims with a clean towel. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands. Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.