Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.
Green beans are also known as snap beans because of the sound they make when a fresh pod is broken in half. Shelling beans are snap beans that are grown past the fresh pod stage until a large seed or shelling bean forms. Most varieties of beans are grown for one or the other—fresh green beans or shelling beans. But a few bean varieties produce good results in either form.
Green beans come in other colors, including purple, yellow (aka wax beans), and multicolored. If you garden, you also know that beans are classified by the way they grow: supported (pole beans) and unsupported (bush beans). There are many varieties of snap beans, including stringless beans, large flat Italian Romano beans, and thin delicate French haricots verts
Common food preservation methods for green beans include freezing, drying, pressure canning, and pickling. Dry salting is a practical and inexpensive way to preserve many vegetables, including green beans. Salting was popular in the early twentieth century as an alternative to canning. Many people familiar with technique consider salting to be far superior in taste and texture to canned or frozen vegetables. If you’ve made sauerkraut or kimchi, then you already know the process. Dry salting uses a higher concentration of salt than when making sauerkraut, which prevents fermentation and preserves the vegetable in a condition that closely resembles fresh ones.
Shell beans may be enjoyed fresh if harvested when immature. Immature shelling beans are best preserved by freezing. Fully matured beans are usually dried, and may also be pressure canned, making them ready to use without pre-soaking or long cooking.
Read below for complete instructions on preparing and preserving green beans and shelling beans by freezing, drying, canning, pickling, and salting.
How to Prepare Green Beans
Wash green beans in a large bowl or basin of clean water. Lift beans from the water and transfer to a colander to drain. Repeat the washing process until no more dirt or debris is left behind in the wash basin.
If the green beans are not a stringless variety, snap the stem end and pull to remove the string that runs all the way up the side of the bean; otherwise, simply snap off or trim the stem end.
Leave bean pods whole or cut into desired lengths as needed for a particular food preservation method. Large or mature bean pods may be French-cut, which is to slice them thinly lengthwise. Slice by hand or use a special cutting tool designed for this purpose.
One pound of green beans is equivalent to 1-1/2 to 2 dry pints, or 2 to 3 cups trimmed and cut green beans.
How to Prepare Shelling Beans
Press the pod to split the seam, push the beans out with your finger into a bowl, and discard the pods. If the pod is moldy or mildewed, discard the beans. Also discard any shriveled or split beans. Use fresh beans within 24 hours after shelling, or freeze or dry for later use.
One pound of unshelled bean pods yields 1 to 2 cups shelled beans. Smaller bean varieties generally give smaller yields and larger beans usually give larger yields.
Blanch all vegetables before freezing or drying, unless you know you will be using them within one month. Without blanching, enzymes that are naturally present remain active, even when the food is frozen or dried. Over time, enzyme activity alters the color, flavor, and nutrient content.
There are two methods for blanching: immersed in boiling water or steamed in a rack over boiling water. Steam-blanching is preferred before drying foods because it adds less water to the food.
To water blanch, immerse one pound of prepared beans in one gallon of boiling water.
To steam-blanch, bring water to a boil in a large (6-quart) pot or wok fitted with a steamer rack and a lid; add prepared beans in a single layer on the rack, cover, and allow to steam.
Boil or steam beans for 2-4 minutes, or until tender and translucent on the outside, but still firm and opaque in the center. Remove vegetables to an ice water bath for 2-4 minutes, or until cool to the touch. Drain in a colander for at least 30 minutes..
If desired, add 2 tablespoons of salt to the boiling water before blanching. Salt is optional, but helps retain the color and enhance flavor. If you wish to preserve beans without using salt, the flavor can still be improved by tossing each quart of blanched vegetables with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground mace, nutmeg, or curry powder, or 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice. These small amounts are not intended to add flavor, rather bring out the natural flavor of the vegetable.
For best results when freezing, select beans that are fully mature and at the peak of freshness. Either fresh green beans or shelled beans may be frozen. Prepare whole or cut green beans or shelled beans, and then blanch, as described in the sections on preparing and blanching beans.
Spread prepared and blanched beans on a tray in a single layer and place in the freezer 30 minutes, or until firm. Transfer to freezer-safe containers. Freeze up to 12 months.
For best results when drying, select beans that are fully mature and at the peak of freshness. Either fresh green beans or shelled beans may be dried. Prepare whole or cut green beans or shelled beans, and then blanch, as described in the sections on preparing and blanching beans.
Dehydrator or Oven-Dried Beans
Preheat an oven or food dehydrator to 130°F to 140°F. Dry until leathery, or until brittle for longer storage. Cool beans until no longer warm. Store dried beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for about 2 months, or longer depending on your climate. Freeze for longer storage.
If dried vegetables become moldy during storage, they are best discarded. For this reason, store dried vegetables in smaller, rather than larger containers. To guard against mold growth, be sure to condition dried foods before you store them.
How to Condition Dried Foods for Optimal Storage
Individual pieces of food dry at different rates; some pieces will have more moisture than others. If there is too much moisture in only a few pieces, they can grow mold and contaminate the entire batch. Conditioning re-distributes the moisture evenly among all pieces.
To condition dried foods, place them in a tightly closed plastic or glass container at room temperature. Stir or shake the contents every day for a week. If you open the container to stir the contents, be sure to close it tightly again. During conditioning, the moisture will equalize—that is, excess moisture will transfer to drier pieces, until it is evenly distributed throughout the batch.
During conditioning, if moisture forms on the inside of the container, the food is not sufficiently dry and you need to use an oven or dehydrator to dry them more sufficiently. Repeat the conditioning process to ensure complete drying.
Shade-Dried Green Bean “Britches”
An alternative to oven-drying or an electric dehydrator, shade drying places food out of direct sunlight, in a location with very warm air or very good circulation, or both. Suitable locations may be outdoors—such as an open shed or screened porch—or indoors in a well-ventilated room or attic, as well as inside a car or camper.
One of the most common shade-dried foods is green beans made into hanging bean “britches”, so called because they are strung to hang on a line—like socks or trousers (also known as “britches”) drying on a clothesline.
Wash green beans well and leave whole with the stem end intact. Do not trim beans, or remove the string if present. Instead of blanching, soak green beans in 15 percent cold brine for 15 minutes before drying. Brine is simply a solution of salt and water. To make 15-percent brine, stir 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt in one quart cold water until completely dissolved. Pickling or canning salt is your best choice for brine because it is fine-grained, pure, and dissolves easily.
To make the hanging bean britches, use a large needle and heavy-duty thread (upholstery or buttonhole type), fishing line, or any other thin twine or cord. Thread each bean near the stem end and knot the thread around the end of each vegetable to keep them from sliding together. Create 3-foot lengths, or enough beans for one meal (one pound makes about four servings). Leave 6- to 12-inches thread at either end for hanging.
Hang bean britches in a warm but shaded area with good air circulation. Dry until leathery. Store bean britches where they hang, or condition and transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
To use line-dried beans, simply cut at the stem; leave any unused vegetables hanging in place. To rehydrate dried green beans, place in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and soak 20 to 30 minutes, or until plumped.
Field Dried Shelling Beans
If you garden, you can dry shelling beans (such as scarlet runner, navy, kidney, lentils, soybeans, and others) in the garden while still on the vine. At the end of the growing season, simply leave the bean pods on the vine until the seeds have fully matured, the pods shrivel and turn yellow or brown, and the beans rattle inside the pods.
If the weather becomes rainy before the pods can fully dry on the vine, or you have a problem with bugs, pull up the plants and hang upside down in a barn or shed to dry. Alternatively, harvest the pods, shell the beans, and dry in an oven or dehydrator. If the beans have not fully matured, they are best preserved by freezing instead of drying.
Fresh green pods are easier to shell than fully dried pods. To remove beans from dry pods easily, one popular method is to beat them inside a sack or pillow case. Place dried pods inside a sack, close the bag with twine or a rubber band, and beat the bag against a tree or sturdy wall until the beans are released from the pods. Lift out and discard the pods; the beans will be at the bottom of the bag.
Even if the shelled beans seem adequately dry, always condition them before storing.
Canning green beans
For best results when canning, select beans that are mature, but slightly underripe. Be sure to read the instructions in this Tip Sheet for Home Food Canning (PDF).
How to Pressure Can Green Beans
Estimate 2 pounds green beans per quart. Prepare cut or sliced beans. If desired, add 1 tablespoon salt to each quart jar before filling with beans. For hot pack, add prepared green beans to boiling water, cook 5 minutes, and keep hot while filling jars loosely with beans. For raw pack, ladle a small amount of boiling water into the hot jar, and pack prepared raw beans tightly to below the threaded neck. For either type of pack, add hot cooking liquid or boiling water to 1-inch headspace. Process green beans in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds or weighted gauge at 10 pounds; pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
How to Pressure Can Dried Beans
Estimate 3/4 pound dried beans per quart. Soak beans by either the cold-soak or hot-soak method. To cold-soak beans, place dried beans in a large pot, cover with 3 times their volume of water, and soak 6 to 8 hours in a cool place, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. To quick-soak beans, place dried beans a large pot, cover with 3 times their volume of water, and bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and soak 1 hour.
Drain soaked beans, cover with fresh tap water by 1-2 inches, bring to a boil over high heat, and boil 30 minutes. Reduce heat and keep beans hot while filling jars. If desired, add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar before filling loosely with hot beans. Add hot cooking liquid to 1-inch headspace. Process dried beans in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds or weighted gauge at 10 pounds; pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Pickling Green Beans
For best results when pickling, select beans that are mature, but slightly underripe.
Hot Pickled Beans
Wash and trim about 1 pound green beans, or enough to fill a sterilized, one-pint canning jar. Before filling jar with beans, add 1 garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Pack raw beans tightly into jar. In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup 5 percent white vinegar, 1/3 cup water, and 2-1/4 teaspoons pickling salt. Bring to a boil and pour over beans. Cover jar and store in the refrigerator up to one month. For longer storage, this recipe may be canned. Add pickling liquid to 1/2-inch headspace. Process pints of pickled green beans in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Pickled Three-Bean Salad Recipe
• 4 cups blanched green beans
• 4 cups blanched yellow waxed beans
• 2 15-ounce cans drained and rinsed pinto beans or black beans
• 1 cup thinly sliced onion
• 1 cup thinly sliced celery
• 1 cup sliced red pepper
• white vinegar
• lemon juice
• 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 2/3 cup olive oil
1. In a large bowl, gently toss together 4 cups cut blanched green beans, 4 cups cut, blanched yellow wax beans, 2 (15-oz.) cans drained and rinsed pinto or black beans (about 3 cups), 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced onion, 1 cup thinly sliced celery, and 1 cup sliced red bell pepper.
2. In a large (8- to 10-quart) stockpot, combine 1-1/3 cups 5 percent white vinegar, 2⁄3 cup bottled lemon juice, and 1-1⁄2 cups granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Remove from heat, and stir in 2⁄3 cup olive oil, and 1-1⁄4 teaspoon salt until well blended.
4. Add vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat.
5. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for 12 to 14 hours.
6. Return bean salad to a stockpot over high heat and bring to a boil. Keep salad hot while filling jars to 1/2-inch headspace. Take extra care to adjust the headspace and carefully clean the rim of oil using vinegar, to guarantee a good seal.
7. Process pints of pickled three-bean salad in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (at 0 to 1,000 feet).
Yield 7 pints
Salting Green Beans
For best results when salting, select young, tender, very fresh green beans.
Dry salting is similar to the method for making sauerkraut, but uses much more salt to prevent fermentation, as well as any other bacterial growth. The heavy salt used in this recipe is out of step with today’s tastes. Therefore, you might want to try preserving a small amount of green beans by salting, before you preserve an entire crop. You may find that learning to use the salted product requires some experimentation. Alternatively, you could use a sauerkraut recipe to make fermented green beans.
Prepare 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds green beans, or enough to fill a 1 quart jar. The beans may be left whole, cut in 1- or 2-inch lengths, or “Frenched” (sliced thinly lengthwise). After preparing, if the beans are still moist from washing, pat them dry with clean towels. Weigh beans to determine how much salt to use. Weigh 3.2 ounces (1⁄3 cup) pickling salt for each pound of prepared raw beans.
Unlike cabbage for sauerkraut, green beans need to be steam-blanched before salting. After preparing and weighing raw beans and salt, steam-blanch the prepared beans as described in the section on blanching beans. Allow to cool before packing in salt. If the beans are still moist from blanching, pat the beans dry with clean towels.
In a large bowl, toss prepared, blanched, and cooled beans with the previously weighed pickling salt, until evenly mixed. Pack beans and all of the salt into a sterilized 1-quart glass jar, leaving 1 to 2 inches headspace; press beans firmly without crushing, to extract liquid to cover the beans.
In 24 hours, if liquid does not cover the beans completely, prepare a 20 percent brine using 7.7 ounces (3/4 cup) pickling salt dissolved in one quart water. Add enough brine to the jar to cover the beans generously. Place a weight on the beans to keep them submerged in the brine — good weights include a clean water-filled glass jar or brine filled plastic bag (fill bag with brine in case it springs a leak). Store container in the refrigerator. After any bubbling stops (usually within one week), cover the jar tightly with a lid. Store salted vegetables in the refrigerator up to 6 months. Check once or twice a week for white scum and remove if present. If fuzzy mold develops, the food should be discarded. The color of salted beans usually darkens, but they remain vibrant green and firm.
Before using salted vegetables, you usually remove excess salt by soaking in cold water for 2 to 8 hours. Change water frequently to speed up desalinization. You can use de-salted green beans in the same ways you would as if they were fresh, such as cold for salads, or prepared as a hot vegetable side dish, or any recipe calling for fresh green beans.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.