Monday, July 25, 2011

How to blanch and store yer Beans!

When I first met my husband, I knew how to garden, but that was about it.  Along with being a stand up guy, he's also a chef by trade.  You would think that would be wonderful!  Sadly, with him working 3-4 jobs at any given point, he doesn't have a lot of time for cooking at home.  He does, however, have a wealth of knowledge in the if you can get him in there, you can learn a lot.

We gardened for some years before we considered storing the food we grew.  In hindsight, it seemed a little silly.  Eating beans for weeks at a time, so they didn't go bad and go to waste.  It definitely put our tastebuds through the wringer.  Nowadays we consider storage as a way to keep our garden giving throughout the year.  We have put some effort into investigating how you store different veggies. 

For our beans, we freeze them.  Pickling can be hard on the heart, what with all the salt.  We freeze our beans and they get added to soups and stews all winter, but my personal favorite is throwing them into Sheppard's Pie.  Mmmmmm.

As we found out the first year we froze beans, you MUST blanch them first BEFORE you freeze them.  Otherwise they turn brown when they hit the water or they leave everything else looking greenish.  (Like I said, gardening is VERY trial-and-error with us)

Now, let me start out by saying the only blanch I knew about was Blanche Devereaux from the Golden Girls.  So hubbie definitely came in handy on this one.  He knew how to blanch properly and he showed me how (with a lot of patience I might add).

The first step may seem obvious...but first you must pick your beans...I grab them when they are approx. 4-5 inches long...the longer they get the less sweet they are.  We grow green beans, yellow beans and purple beans!  That being said, we tried to blanch the purple beans and low and behold they turned back to GREEN!  Now we only pick the purple ones and eat them with dip or home made hummus.  So green and yellow beans get picked.

The you give them a GOOD rinse.  There will be dirt, bugs and/or wilted bean flowers stuck to them.  The outside of the beans are soft and lightly hairy, so stuff sticks to them quite easily.

Once washed, you'll want to dry them off a bit in a drainer.  Then you'll fill a big pot of water and get it on the stove now.  By the time that big pot comes to a boil, you should be all done preparing the beans.

When I prepare beans, I have old fashioned images of ladies on the porch snapping them by hand.  Your beans should snap when you break them, or they are not fresh.  I use a knife by the way, only because I'm doing a LOT of them and it takes less time.  Take off the ends and cut them into 1 inch pieces.  Any longer and you'll regret it when you add them to things in the winter.  you want bite-sized chucks, not long you may not know what you'll be adding them to later on.

When your pot is at a rolling boil, add the prepared beans.  Let boil for 1 min or until the beans change colour slightly.  Remember, you aren't cooking your beans, just par-boiling them.

After 1 min, you remove the pot from the stove and pour out all hot water.  You can use a strainer again here for this task.  I run cold water over my beans to halt the cooking process.  You can also set them in a sink of ice water if you so choose.

Allow the beans to cool a bit before you put them in a large freezer bag.

You don't want to PACK your beans in the bag.  You'll want to add a bunch, then flatten them out as thin as you can without crushing the poor veggies.  Lay the flattened bag in the freezer until frozen (approx 24 hrs).  Later on you can blanch more beans and use the same procedure for freezing.  When the beans are all done for the season, I add all the flattened bags into one.  At that point all the individual beans are frozen thoroughly and you'll also avoid "clumping".

Allow me to elaborate here.  "Clumping" was something that happened the first year we froze our beans.  Over the winter I encountered a large mass of beans frozen together.  Try adding a few beans when you have one solid block of beans (approx 3 cups worth)...not easy.  You'll either end of chipping away until you get beans shards...or you get mushy beans.  Again, trial and error....we live, we learn.

So now I take my flattened bags and add them to one or two freezer bags until each bag is full.  It may seem very labour intensive compared to the cheap bgs of Green Giant beans at the grocery store.  A relative once remarked..."Aren't those beans cheaper at the store?"  While I agree that beans at the grocery store are cheaper costing and easier than our beans, I have to mention that our beans have ZERO carbon footprint.  They were grown in our backyard and didn't have to be produced in a factory or trucked from a far away locale.  Part of our new mindset is that cheap isn't always desireable.  Cheap only means that I don't pay much money for something that costs the planet far more.

Our beans are healthy and pesticide free!  Our beans were grown with love (so they taste better!  or at least I think so) and my children understand what it takes to enjoy these green power veggies.

These beans make me feel more connected. 

1 comment:

  1. Best statement ever! "Cheap only means that I don't pay much money for something that costs the planet far more." Thanks for your continued writings