Wednesday, April 15, 2009

But First the Green Beans

Today I ran a few errands, stopping at the grocery store to pick up the bar of soap that I needed to make laundry soap. Yes, I promised a tutorial on how to make your own laundry soap.

But first the GREEN BEANS!!!

What? It was not my intention to deal with green beans today, but on my way to the soap aisle I passed the produce department with it's famous bargain section. They box up large quantities of produce that is not quite as fresh. The siren song of the green beans called to me.......

buy me, buy me.

But here's the thing, if you buy these not so fresh green beans they must be dealt with immediately or you've got nothing but compost material on your hands. I thought this would be a good time to show you how to process the beans that will soon be coming either out of your own garden or from the local farmer's markets. If you take advantage of what's reasonable and in season you can save money on your food bill.

So today I'm going to show you how to blanch and freeze beans. It's very simple.

Here's the big box 'o beans that were calling to me.

The box weighed about 5 or 6 pounds and it was $1.99.

Inside - the good, the bad and the ugly!

Get a large pot ready with boiling salted water. This pot is one of the best purchases I've ever made. It's large and the insert allows me to drain the food while keeping the water boiling for another batch. I found it at one of the home goods discount stores.

I set up a little work station to process the beans. At the top is a garbage bowl. There was actually alot of waste so I resorted to a brown paper bag on the floor into which I tossed the bad beans and the tips.

I cut the ends off the beans. In days past, women would have sat on the porch, gossiping and snapping beans.

So as not to overfill the pot, I'm going to blanch them in two batches.

Immerse them into the boiling water. Boil for 6-8 minutes until they're tender crisp and bright green.

See how easy it is to just pick up the liner and drain the beans?

While the beans were boiling I filled my sink with cold water and ice.

The hot beans are plunged into the ice bath, which stops the cooking process.

I wait a few minutes and drain them on a dish towel.

We don't own one of those vacuum food sealers. I've found it's easy to fill these freezer bags with a pleated bottom, squeeze out the air and zip them shut.

It took about an hour of my time but I have a whole mess of bean in my freezer. They're just waiting for the perfect beef roast.

I mentioned the old days when women would sit on the porch and snap large buckets of beans. Here's the porch that I remember. My aunt and her friends or her sister-in-laws would sit in those rockers and snap away, catching up on their lives. It was a ritual.


This was in the rural piney woods of the Florida panhandle. This location has an interesting connection with this week's field trip adventure, which will be on Friday.

Thanks for joining me in the kitchen. Tomorrow we're going to make homemade laundry soap. Please join me.

EDIT NOTE: We were forced into frugality early in our marriage. It soon became a game of sorts, to find the best bargain or ways to stretch the resources. The older generation was so happy to have the time saving conveniences and now we find ourselves backtracking in order to have more control over what we're consuming, both literally and figuratively. Just because they invent something doesn't mean we have to use it.

I forgot to mention there are "frenchers" for sale if French style green beans are your style. It involves cranking each bean through a little device that cuts it into three strips. Do you see the size of the box I had there? Frenching each green bean would be crazy and I gotta draw the line somewhere!

You might ask your local grocery store produce manager if he'd be willing to sell you some of the produce they pull off the displays. The larger chain stores will probably not be willing to do this. My bean came from a family owned Italian market. Since the Farmer works in the fresh herb business I could go on an on about government regulations concerning food. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing but my old Aunt Lydia ate every stinking old leftover that was hiding in our fridge and she never got sick.....EVER!!! That doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful but our society has reached a level where there's a zero tolerance for risk. Unfortunately, we take a risk just getting out of bed in the morning folks!! OK, I'm starting to sound like Heidi here. Pretty soon we'll be known as the Crazy Ranting Farm Sisters. HA! I'm off to produce a tutorial. That's cool, I'm going to be wearing my producer's hat for today.


Anonymous said...

Other than the time involved that's just so easy peasy to do with the green beans. Wondering how many bags you had after you tossed out the bad beans.

The Blue Ridge Gal

Louise said...

Great pictures! This is funny to me because yesterday our dinner was "pasta with walnuts and green beans." And I made an extra batch for a pregnant friend that is having a few problems and is exhausted from being at the doctor's office all the time. So I was snapping beans. I rarely cut them, but I was OH SO wishing I had a big shady porch on which I could sit and do it and watch the world pass by! I used to do that as a very small fry at my babysitter's house.

Suzanne said...

Di - I got five one-quart freezer bags full. It looked like a heck of a lot of beans, even after I threw out the bad ones.

Louise - These weren't the freshest beans so they weren't snapping. I had to resort to the knife!! Pasta with walnuts and green beans sounds fabulous. What type of sauce?

Vee said...

Well I have never seen such a large box of green beans for sale anywhere, including the farmer's market. Must be the difference between New England and the Midwest. You're a frugal one, Suzanne, and those beans are so beautiful and green!

Bridgett said...

I can remember snapping beans and shucking corn with my mom on our back patio. I love getting to see your aunt's house with the little boy and the wagon playing out front. I can't help but wonder why we want our lives to be so busy!

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for the lesson! I plan on putting up a lot of veggies and fruits this summer. My plan was to can it all, but I think I may freeze some using this method as well.

Is that buttermilk in your freezer?? If so, does it freeze well? I use buttermilk in biscuits and like to have some on hand, but it often goes bad before I have finished the carton. If I could freeze it that would be great!

Looking forward to the laundry soap tutorial...and the field trip. After a final exam in my
19th century Europe class tomorrow, I am going to need a field trip!

Chris said...

Isn't it such a great feeling to have a freezer full of "put-ups"? Green beans are definitely a favorite around here. Now if I could jut find a box like that for $1.99...

Domestic Diva said...

Green Beans are a favorite in our family, I do this all during the summer as they are ready from the garden :)

belladella said...

We call em snaps in my family. I didn't know they had another name until I was older- ha! Now, of course like the good southern girl that I am my snap recipe involves bacon and many hours simmering on the stove. Mmmmm!

Suzanne said...

Vee - I think because this is a family owned local market and they cannot afford to toss out perfectly good but not so fresh produce. They are also frugal, trying to squeeze every $1.99 they can!

Bridgett - Their lives were busy in a different way. Instead of saying, "I'm out of boxed pancake mix, let me get in the car and drive 9 miles," they would simply walk to the pantry and mix some up. Also..... they didn't have CARS. Most families were strictly one car and some people we knew didn't even own a car. Imagine that!!

Lisa - That is buttermilk in the freezer. The Other Mother declared that milk can be frozen. She went on an Alaskan cruise years ago and some woman in a gift shop told her that they frozen their milk. She claims it's possible and she's put gallons and gallons and gallons of leftover milk (mostly bits of buttermilk) in the freezer. But, here's the kicker! She's never thawed or used one drop and I don't use it because I like my milk really fresh. I'm not in Alaska and I don't have to wait for a packet boat to deliver goods for pete's sake!! Everyone once in awhile I have to make a sweep of the freezers and get rid of them because being from the depression generation, she never gets rid of anything!!!

As far as your test in your 19th Century Europe class - just wait. On Friday our Field Trip will go into 19th Century American history! There won't be test, don't worry. Or maybe I will do a test in the future and offer a giveaway. That way I can determine your ability to retain information.

Chris - The best green beans out in the world are at the Outback Restaurant. Omigosh! They are so crisp and good. They're seasoned with something but my son always forgot to ask the chef. (He worked at Outback for awhile)

Diva - Woo Hoo!!!! Then you can attest to the fact that it's no big deal and kinda cool and fun to do with the family. Sit out on the deck and shell peas and snap beans and talk about your day.

Bella Della - HA. Oh yeah. There are only two ways to cook beans. The quick, snap crisp method and the SOUTHERN METHOD. Hey, since my family is all from the south I'm well acquainted with those and actually they're my favorite. All day, yes..... almost all day those beans cook. We use a bit of fat back or salt pork. OMIGOSH... nothing gives the flavor like a bit-o-the-pig. The beans will be cooking right next to the big pot of grits that also cook ALL DAY. If you haven't eaten grits cooked properly, you've never eaten grits. That's all I have to say!!!

Vicki's Bit-o-earth said...

Suzanne, great post! I've done what you're doing many times too. I also have a garden, but its not huge and produces small amounts of produce at a time... so I do small batches at a time. It works, but requires a steady consistent approach. I found the wonderful little handi-vac from Reynolds ( at my local grocery store. It works great for small food saving, and cost under $10. The ziploc-type bags are more expensive than regular bags, but are reusable if not used for meats or liquid ingredients. Just thought I'd pass the info along...
Love your blog. Vicki

Cottage Rose said...

Hello Suzanne. What a deal on the green beans. I remember helping out my Mom when she was freezing beans and corn, then canning everything that came out of her garden.. I had lots of fun with her.... I think I will have to take a look see at the store now..


Karen said...

Well done, Suzanne !!! :-)

I used to freeze beans, back in the day when I had a decent garden.

I'm looking forward to the Farmer's Markets starting up in a month or so. The beans are a little more expensive, but they're snapping fresh !!

I want to make some green bean relish this year ..

Jill said...

You always have such great tips! I've never had good success blanching my broccoli... which is the only veggie I've ever blanched. Your beans look beautiful!