Freezing Beans

The garden is officially in "fast and furious" mode these days.  A few things, like the summer squash, are starting to wind down, but for the most part, the garden has hit its summer stride and the peak is here!  The upside is that we have no shortage in a variety of fresh produce and I have been working on all kinds of great things to share in future posts.  If there's a downside, it is that most of my blog time has been rededicated to processing all the produce and many of those great posts have yet to be written.  But, they will appear in good time, I promise!
For the past few weeks, it's been the beans that have threatened to take over the refrigerator.  Between the three varieties of snap beans I planted this year (Contender green beans, Royal Burgundy purple beans, and the pretty purple speckled Dragon's Tongue beans), I am harvesting a little more than a gallon of beans every other day.  That's a whole lot of beans!
One of the easiest ways to preserve an abundance of beans is to freeze them.  The process is quite easy - last weekend I set up an assembly line and knocked out 7 gallons in no time.  

The first step is to wash and trim the ends of the beans, as well as any areas of insect damage (on a side note, purple beans have a much lower occurrence of insect damage!).  If desired, slice the beans into bite sized pieces.   
Beans naturally contain enzymes that will gradually deteriorate the quality of the beans over time -even after freezing - so it is necessary to blanch the beans before freezing in order to destroy the enzymes and preserve the "fresh" quality of the beans.  For best results, blanching should be done in small batches (2-4 cups at a time).  There are two ways to blanch beans: Beans can be dropped into a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, or they can be microwaved in a covered casserole dish with a small amount of water (1 tablespoon of water per cup of beans) for 4 minutes (lower power microwaves may require more time).  If blanching in the microwave, I recommend stirring the beans half way through to ensure the beans are blanching evenly.  
After blanching, beans should be immediately and quickly transferred into a bowl of ice water or cold running water to stop the beans from cooking.  I have found that placing a colander over a large bowl under cold running water keeps the beans submerged, yet allows the cold running water to continually cool the beans.  The rule of thumb is that the beans should be cooled for the same amount of time they were blanched.
After the blanched beans have been cooled, drain and transfer the beans to bags for freezing.  Before sealing the bags, remove as much air as possible.  A vacuum sealer works great for this purpose, but if you don't have one, it's not too difficult to squeeze quite a bit of air out of a zip lock bag - some people even use a straw to suck the extra air out of the bags.  For ease of storage, it is also helpful to make bags as flat as possible, with even layers of beans, so the bags can be stacked together easily in the freezer.

All that's left to do is transfer the bags to the freezer!  Frozen beans will be best if used within one year of freezing.

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