Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Preserving Beans

by National Gardening Association Editors

The final step before storing shell beans is sorting. It's important to remove the discolored, immature and misshapen beans from the good ones, because the bad ones could affect the taste.

An easy way to sort beans is to spread a white sheet over the kitchen table and pour the beans onto the sheet. The sheet makes it easy to roll the beans around, allowing you to check them carefully. Using this technique it's especially easy to spot bad white beans. Sorting is a chore, but if you enlist a friend to help, it can also be a time for a chat.

Dry beans will keep well in tightly capped, airtight containers, stored in a cool, dry, dark spot.

Freezing Preparation

To prepare a batch of snap beans for freezing, thoroughly wash about one pound at a time in cool water. Don't let them soak because they may get soggy. String them if necessary. (Yes, some varieties still have strings. To string them, hold the bean in one hand, stem end up. Grasp the stem in the other hand and pull down. It's easy to see that the bean has sort of a seam on one side, and that's where the string is. So, holding onto the stem, zip it down that side, and the bean is strung.)

After stringing, trim off the stem end. At this point you may leave the beans whole, cut or snap them into one- to two-inch bits or slice them diagonally or lengthwise. Lengthwise slicing is known as the French cut. Prepare each batch in only one way, so the beans will cook uniformly.

Beans must be blanched prior to freezing. Blanching or scalding stops the plant enzymes from working, which stops the ripening process. To blanch, put the cleaned, trimmed beans in a wire basket and plunge the basket for two to four minutes into a large kettle filled with vigorously boiling water. (Purple-podded beans turn green after a couple of minutes, indicating that they've had enough blanching.) If you live above 5,000 feet, add one minute to the scalding time.

After blanching, remove the basket of beans and quickly plunge it into ice water. The beans stop cooking, remain firm and retain their color. The cooling should take about as long as the blanching.

Drain the beans well and pack them in freezer containers. Do not add salt or other seasonings. Pack the beans firmly but not tightly, leaving no more than 1/2 inch of headspace (air causes freezer burn--dehydration--which reduces flavor and nutrients).

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