There are, of course, many welcome newcomers to the produce aisle this time of year. The tomato is the obvious star of the show (we get it, you're juicy and sweet and delicious and pretty much perfect), but there's also eggplants, zucchini, all sorts of stone fruit, bell peppers, and corn. One summer growth, however, doesn't always get the recognition it deserves at the farmers market, and that's the humble green bean.
They're sturdy and reliable, endlessly versatile, and thus deserve a spot in summer's pantheon. I like them cooked low and slow until effortlessly tender and velvety in a good dousing of olive oil. Though green beans can be found year-round (thanks, modern supermarkets), there's something special about all the varieties of pole and bush beans, like romano, wax, and long, that start to emerge come summertime. So whether you grew your own, picked them fresh, or bought them at a farmers market or grocery store, here's how to enjoy those summer beans well into cooler months.
It's quite traditional, especially in the Southern U.S., to can green beans. Here, the steps are simple: you fill jars with fresh beans, then top with water and canning salt before removing any air bubbles and properly sealing the cans. Others prefer to pickle them. But freezing beans, so that you can store them through the winter and thaw them when you need them, is a different beast entirely.
The essential question remains: Can you freeze green beans? The answer is yes. It is possible to freeze green beans and, if done properly, they can live in your freezer all year long without becoming worse for wear. So, how do you freeze green beans? It's quite simple, actually.
How to freeze green beans
The process for freezing beans is actually not so different than the process of preparing them to eat. To start, it's best to trim the ends of each stalk. That could mean snapping off the end where the bean naturally gives or lining up the beans and trimming the ends with a knife in one go. The objective here is to remove any brown or flimsy edges and get rid of the fibrous bits where the bean was once attached to its stalk.
Next, prepare a pot of boiling water — it's time to blanch. We blanch to preserve the beans while they're at their peak, soft and green. Plus, blanching helps get rid of an enzyme that aids deterioration. Plop the beans in the boiling water (salt is not necessary as it can oversoften blanched vegetables) for about three minutes. We're looking for them to turn bright green and slightly tender. Once they've achieved their brighter color, remove the beans and toss them into an ice bath. If you, like me, don't have an ice machine and can't be bothered to waste precious ice on a soak for your beans, putting them in a bowl and letting cold sink water run over them will do the trick.
Once all the beans are cooled, lay them on a towel and pat dry. It's best to remove as much excess moisture as possible before they enter their new home, the freezer, for the unforeseen future. After they're dry, you have two options. You can either toss all the beans in a zip-top bag and toss them in the freezer — yet you run the risk of having them all freeze together in one giant mass. This is fine if you plan on defrosting them all at the same time. Your other option is to freeze them in two batches. First, lay the beans out on a sheet pan in a single layer. Put the whole sheet in the freezer. Once they're each individually firm, you can then store all the beans together in a bag. If we're talking shell beans, like favas, it's it's best to shell them before freezing, but even those beans will benefit from an initial freeze on a sheet tray before freezing together.
The beans should be good in your freezer for six months to a year, but it's likely they'll call your name before then anyway. To bring the beans back to life, simply remove them from the freezer and toss them into whatever you're cooking.