Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harvest Kitchen

Last weekend was hot, high 80s. The cats were stretched out full length in the coolest spots they could find.

Not far away, a member of a supposedly more intelligent species was holed up in a stuffy little kitchen sweating over a boiling pot of beans. Or, to be exact, a non-boiling pot.

"A watched pot never boils," so goes the old saying. That was my first mistake, no doubt, in my week-end adventure of preparing a huge pile of Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake beans for the freezer.

"Put the beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch them for three minutes," read the instructions. When I dropped several bowlfuls of chopped beans into vigorously boiling water it stopped boiling. I assumed the water needed to come back up to a boil before I started timing three minutes. Wrong. But I wouldn't know how wrong until later.

It took about eight minutes for the big pot filled with beans to come back to a boil. Then I let them boil for another three minutes. Wrong. Wrong.

"Plunge the beans into cold water with ice, to stop the cooking." That step proceeded as indicated. The beans looked beautiful and tasted even better. Completely delicious. After draining them, I couldn't stop snacking. That should have been a clue right there.

"Dry the beans," the instructions continued. "How?" I wondered. I spread them out on a bath towel and patted them dry, popping more than a few into my mouth. So far, so good -- or so I thought at the time.

The next step was to pack the yummy little beanies into freezer containers. The batch filled nine pint-sized containers. I put them into the freezer feeling very pleased with a most productive afternoon in my harvest kitchen. Did I mention the double batch of green soup? Lots of big pots were steaming up the kitchen that day.

Several days later we tried some of the beans for dinner, just to see how the freezing worked. Ewwww, bland and tasteless! Somehow I had managed to remove all trace of flavor.

With a little searching on the internet I came across a blog comments conversation -- can't remember where -- that addressed the issue of how long the beans should stay in the water. The suggestion was to make sure the ratio of boiling water to beans is such that putting the beans into the water does not stop it from boiling. The beans should not be cooked, just plunged in boiling water long enough to disable enzymes and kill bacteria that could cause them to spoil in the freezer. Live and learn. Now I know that beans that taste utterly delicious are beans that have been over-prepared for freezing.

It's not as if we don't have plenty more beans to experiment with. Next time will be better. But what to do with eight more pints of frozen, flavorless beans. Minestrone, anyone?

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