Summer is a season of bounty when it comes to fresh vegetables. There is nothing better than a vegetable picked at the peak of ripeness and consumed immediately. The only problem is that these fresh, farm-grown vegetables are not available all year round. Even catering companies have a hard time acquiring them fresh all year. Sure, you can get them at the grocery store during any season, but generally speaking, they do not taste nearly as good. One such vegetable is the humble green bean. These can be difficult to find in even the largest grocery stores in the offseason, and if you are lucky enough to find them, you will probably be disappointed in their flavor.
Fortunately, there is a solution. It is possible to buy green beans at the peak of ripeness and then store them in your freezer for year-round use. This method of first blanching, and then freezing green beans will save you money, time, and the disappointment that often comes with not being able to find them in the cooler months.
Get Your Beans
Of course, the first step to blanching and freezing green beans is to gather your beans. If you have a garden where you grow them, this should be no problem. If you are going to buy green beans from a farm stand or store, look for those at the peak of freshness. Green bean season lasts from May to October. Make sure to get beans that are vibrant in color and have no blemishes. Do not buy limp green beans or any with shriveled ends.
Assemble Your Equipment
First, gather the essentials. Most households will have all of these pieces of kitchen gear, but when cooking, it is important to check that they are available before you start any project. You will need:
- A knife
- A cutting board
- A large cooking pot
- A large slotted spoon
- A strainer
- A large bowl
- Freezer bags, or containers
Water, Water, Everywhere
Now, it’s time to get your work area set up. Start by filling your large cooking pot with water. Put it on the stove and set your burner to high to bring it to a boil. Next, take your large bowl and fill it with ice and water. Set this next to your stove. You’re almost ready to go!
Using a cutting board, trim off the ends of your green beans. Then, cut them into small, bite-sized pieces. You can forgo this step if you’d prefer to freeze whole green beans, but the smaller pieces tend to be more convenient to use later in the year, and they are easier to handle when it comes to storage.
Now that your green beans are trimmed, and your workspace is set up, it is time to start the blanching process. Blanching is a technique that involves briefly cooking food, typically in preparation for freezing, or in some cases, further cooking. It helps to bring out the colors of the food, without making it limp or soggy.
It is important to work in small batches. Otherwise, your green beans won’t cool properly. Place your green beans into the boiling water. Let them stay in the water for only 2-4 minutes. Once that time is up, quickly use your slotted spoon to retrieve the green beans and plunge them into your ice water. This helps to slow the cooking process. Repeat this process until all of your green beans have been blanched.
Storing Your Goods
Once the green beans have cooled, strain them out of the ice bath. Place your blanched green beans into your freezer bags or storage containers. It is important to make sure that if you use containers, you wipe the rims before putting the lids on. If using freezer bags, make sure to pack them in relatively tight, without squishing them. Make sure to label each container or freezer bag before storage so that you know when they were packaged. If necessary, you can use freezer tape to seal the edges of uncooperative containers. When you first put them in the freezer, make sure not to stack them. This ensures that they freeze quickly and evenly. When stored properly, frozen green beans can last up to 10 months in the freezer.