Food Preservation Educator Offers Tips on Freezing Green Beans

Contact: Kathy Savoie, (207) 780-4205

PORTLAND — After last year’s sad gardening season, who could blame backyard gardeners for planting a few extra rows of vegetables this year? So, what to do with the rich abundance of produce now taking shape in an ideal gardening season may be the next question for many people.

Kathy Savoie, University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator, suggests freezing it.

Savoie, who is available in the Extension Cumberland County office in Portland to discuss preservation of a number of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, has some simple instructions for freezing fresh green beans. It is a fast and inexpensive method of food preservation.

Equipment for freezing vegetables includes a clean work surface and knives, clean pot with lid for blanching, mesh basket or blanching basket, cookie sheet, clean towels or salad spinner, digital timer and an ice bath.

“Step one: Wash. Rinse and snap tops of beans. You can either leave them whole or freeze in two-inch pieces,” Savoie says.

“Step two: Blanch. Lower vegetables into vigorously boiling water. Green beans require three minutes of water blanching. Once the water returns to a boil, start counting the blanching time. Blanching stops enzyme action, delivers optimum color and texture, and kills surface microbes.”

Step three: As soon as blanching is complete, quickly cool green beans to stop the cooking process.

“Plunge them into an ice bath for the same amount of time they were blanched,” she says. “To improve the quality of your frozen product, remove water by spinning in a salad spinner, or placing on clean kitchen towels or paper towels. Excess water creates clumped beans that are hard to break up and use, and can cause a loss of quality.”

Step four: Dry, pack and freeze in freezer-grade materials, removing as much air as possible, but leaving space for expansion that occurs during freezing. Label, date and freeze at zero degrees, she says. Green beans and other frozen vegetables should be used within eight to 12 months.

“Materials recommended for freezing foods: heavyweight plastic freezer-grade bags, rigid freezer containers, freezer jars, heavy duty freezer foil, freezer paper, plastic freezer wrap or vacuum-seal pouches,” Savoie says. “Materials not recommended for freezing foods include plastic bread wrappers, recycled cottage cheese or yogurt containers, or regular weight foil, plastic wrap or plastic bags.”

The Cooperative Extension website has additional information on food preservation, educational fact sheets, videos and workshop schedules on this and other topics.