Thursday, July 18, 2013

Green Beans: A Love-Hate Relationship

Alright, folks, even though my canning season was a little slow to start this year, it has officially begun and is moving at top speed.  Among the many things coming in right now both from my yard and the market are green beans. I love 'em.  What's not to love, right?  Green beans are easily preserved in a variety of ways, and yet they are equally delicious and easy to prepare fresh (as long as you get a stringless variety).  They are also prolific growers which is where the love-hate relationship begins.  While it is wonderful to go to your backyard and pick fresh green beans for dinner, it gets a little old (not to mention back-breaking) when you are picking bowls full every few days. 

Freshly picked green beans
There have been times (right now included) when I have so many green beans in the fridge that I feel a little overwhelmed.  My poor husband, who eats most anything I put in front of him, was surprised a few nights ago when we had a meal that did not include green beans or cucumbers (another prolific garden addition).  We eat as many as we can in as many ways as we can, but there comes a point when you just have to preserve them.  When that time comes, I usually purchase several pounds of additional beans (when overrun with beans, you should purchase more, right?!) so that I have enough to really make it worth my preserving efforts.

So, with garden beans and farmers market beans in tow, I spent a good part of a day preserving them in a variety of ways.  Remember, variety is the spice of life.  Here is what I did with them.  
First I spent some quality time snapping most of them into 1-inch lengths while watching an episode of an old TV series Christy during which time my husband asked how much crap a person could watch at one time.  In case you can't tell, he's not really into the whole mushy-gushy love story thing. 
Green beans after trimming ends and snapping
After snapping most of them, I proceeded by blanching and freezing some, making dilly beans with others, and pressure canning the rest.  

I froze less this year because we didn't quite use all I froze last year and we wanted to try pressure canning some for even quicker use this time around.  I ended up freezing 6 bags (3 cups each) as opposed to 11 bags last year.  I will still freeze more as the green beans keep coming in.  I have picked green beans four times at this point (getting roughly 2-3 pounds each time), and there are still more out there.  For a step-by-step guide to freezing green beans check out my post from last year.   

Green beans, blanched, cooled, and ready for the freezer

I then used about 3 pounds to make 6 pints of Dilly Beans with Garlic and Chiles.  These are delicious as a snack, tossed with potatoes, served with heavier items in winter like roasted meats and stews, or even eaten as a side dish (we often open pickled beets and dilly beans when we are too pressed for time to do a proper side dish).  If you are someone who enjoys a drink every now and then, they would make a great addition to a Bloody Mary. For the recipe for Dilly Beans with Garlic and Chiles see last year's post
Dilly beans- this picture is from last year
This was my first year pressure canning green beans.  We decided to try them this way because I figured they would be quicker on a weeknight and give us some variety.  Frozen beans are great braised with a little bacon or in soups and stews, but canned beans can be popped open and eaten as is seasoned with a little garlic, salt, and pepper.  We canned 8 pints this way this year to try them.  

Raw packing green beans into hot jars

Green beans ready for the pressure canner

One jar didn't seal so we were able to give them a try a few days after canning them.  They were so much better than store-bought canned beans.  They were cooked yet still retained a distinct green bean taste and were not at all mushy.  We will definitely be adding these to our yearly repertoire and maybe replacing more of our frozen stock with this.  I pressure canned about 8 pounds of green beans giving me 8 pints. 

Green beans just out of the pressure canner
On a side note...when pressure canning vegetables, often you can choose between packing them hot or raw.  I chose, for ease and because I wanted a firmer end product, to raw pack mine.  If you prefer to pack them hot, you will need to boil your snapped beans for 4-5 minutes before packing them into jars.  The following directions are for the raw pack method.   

Green Beans in the Pressure Canner

According to National Center for Home Food Preservation, one pound of beans makes about one pint canned, so you can choose how much you preserve.  In my opinion, it makes sense to can as much as will fit in your pressure canner if you are going to take the time to run it. If you are unfamiliar with pressure canning, make sure to follow the steps on your canner carefully to ensure a safe canning experience.   

Green beans, about one pound (before trimming) for every pint, ends removed and snapped into 1 inch lengths
Kosher salt or canning salt (do not use table salt)
Boiling water

Sterilize your jars, lids, and rings.  Follow the steps for using your pressure canner and Pressure Canning 101 for pressure canning procedures. 

Bring a large stockpot of boiling water to a boil.  Place about 3 quarts of water in your pressure canner (or the amount indicated by the manufacturer) and heat it up as you pack your hot jars.  Place raw green beans in hot, sterilized jars, filling them tightly (if using hot pack method, pack loosely), leaving 1 inch headspace.  Place 1/2 tsp salt in each pint jar.  Fill each jar with boiling water, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Using a bubble remover or plastic chopstick, remove air bubbles from each jar.  Readjust headspace, and top each jar with a lid and ring.  Place jars in pressure canner and follow manufacturer's directions and Pressure Canning 101 to continue processing.  Process pint jars at 11 pounds of pressure for dial-gauge canners (for people at or below 2,000 feet) for 20 minutes.  If processing quarts, process at 11 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes.  Make sure to adjust pounds of pressure according to altitude.  Once processing time is complete, follow pressure canner directions to reduce pressure safely and completely before removing the lid and jars.      

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  1. Green beans are my favorite! Ok, I say that about most summer veg, but still. :) This is making me want to get my hands on a pressure canner to go along with my water bath canner...

  2. You really should try pressure canning, Eileen. I was unsure of it at first, but it really is easy if you follow the directions, and you can do so much more with it!

  3. You write: "I chose, for ease and because I wanted a firmer end product, to raw pack mine."

    Counterintuitively, hot pack methods produce a crisper finished product. That's because the boiling denatures the enzymes in the vegetables that cause them to ripen.

    I've found that green beens hold up fine with either method, so I only bother if I'm already boiling water for some other purpose (or if I'm canning early in the morning when it's not already too hot in the house). However, with items like carrots that you want to have some body for the finished product, I make sure to use the parboiling step.

    I no longer bother to parboil asparagus because they won't come out as firm as I would cook fresh no matter what and I prefer to puree the finished product for cream of asparagus soup.

    Mike Quieto
    Master Preserver, University of Wisconsin Extension

  4. Thanks, Mike, for the comment. I have pressure canned green beans both ways and personally preferred the texture of the beans from the raw pack (not to mention it is much easier). That could have had something to do with the variety of bean being canned and the size of the beans each time. I do know that beans and other vegetables have an enzyme that is denatured when heated which is why blanching vegetables is definitely a must when freezing. Otherwise, discoloration and a negative change in texture takes place. I have also heard that it is better to hot pack when canning in a boiling water bath and have found this to be true in most cases. Also, one benefit to hot packing is that it removes a lot of air from the food which prevents the food from floating in the jar and allows you to pack more into the jar. That being said, when canning green beans, I am not really concerned with float as much as I would be if I were canning fruit. I think that you can choose raw or hot pack with green beans (as you say in your comment) with no real repercussions one way or the other. There are vegetables, however, for which that is not true. I hope that no one reads my post on green beans and applies it to all pressure canned vegetables without doing their due diligence in the matter.

    I have never read or heard mention of vegetables remaining firmer in the pressure canner after hot packing, and have therefore always attributed my preference for raw packed beans to the fact that they were heated for less time. I try to be very research based, though, so I would love to know where you got your information so that I can look it up for myself. The only thing I could find was which talks about the advantages of hot packing (with more emphasis on boiling water canners) and discusses the fact that raw packing is better suited for pressure canners than for boiling water canners. It does say that raw packing can have a negative effect on color after months in storage but it applies this more to boiling water canners than pressure canners.

    Thanks for the comment and for posting a link or info regarding crispness if available. I am always up for learning new things. :)

  5. My beans have come out 2 different ways. 2 cans are floating to the top and the other 3 are just sitting there and doesn't seem to have any pressure in jar but it is sealed. Is it safe? I dont know what it is supposed to look like in the finished jars.

  6. I have basically the same question. ..should the veggies be floating, or not? ?

  7. Same question. Annnd, my canner couldn't get all the way to 11 lbs pressure, it was at like 9. My recipe said to can them at 10. Bad idea to eat them?