Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thrift: A Case of Green Beans

Someone had scribbled "2/16" on the side of this case of green beans. The actual date, however, was 2/20. I was going to need to act quickly.

I opened the crate of beans expecting the worst. They had been given to us to feed to the pigs, but I love green beans, so I was really hoping I could salvage some of them for human consumption. On first glance, they looked marginal: the color was not very bright, and they had small brown lines on them. I grabbed one and bit it. Much to my delight, it was sweet and still crunchy. One or two of them tasted a little starchy, but they were edible. I set to work almost immediately.

Some vegetables can be cleaned and frozen directly, but most- including green beans- need blanching first. I did not consider directly freezing them for even a moment. They were from an unknown source and in just barely usable condition. So I set my biggest stock pot on the stove to boil. I also prepared an ice water bath in a stainless steel bowl to stop the cooking once I took the beans out of the water.

While the water heated up, I cleaned the beans. I started just squatting in the kitchen with a pair of scissors and 2 bowls: a small one to catch the snipped off stems, and a large one to accept the beans. After 15 minutes or so, however, I realized that the process was a bit slower than I thought it was going to be. I was able to remove the stems from a large salad bowl's worth of beans in that time, but it was too much on my back. Plus, the dog kept sneaking up behind me and stealing beans out of the crate, one by one, while I worked! So I loaded a grocery bag full of beans, latched the crate tight, and moved the operation to the living room.

The living room setup was easier on my back, and I was better able to defend the beans from the dog, but I still ran out of steam before I made much of a dent in that crate. I blanched the whole, cleaned beans for a minute and a half per bowlful, then plunged them into the ice water bath. I had to add more ice to the bath a few times. Then I patted them dry with a clean towel and packed them into gallon-sized freezer bags.

Day Two was lost to sloth, unfortunately, as the couch was too comfy and the movie on TV too interesting, so Day Three was my last chance at salvaging some of the green beans. I put the water on to boil, set up the ice water bath, and set up shop at the coffee table again.  This time I snipped off both ends and cut each bean across the middle for smaller cut beans. It was slower work, since I had to pick around some moldy and soft beans, sorting out only the ones that were suitable for eating. It didn't take long before I gave up and started blanching and cooling and drying and packing into quart-sized freezer bags. With less than a third of the case processed, I had to relinquish my beloved green beans to the pig feed stash.

The Final Yield was 5 Gallon-Size and 2 Quart-Size Freezer Bags of Green Beans

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