Beans are another fabulous garden treat. And they are very kind while existing in the garden. Did you know that when you plant green beans, the plant takes the nitrogen floating around in the air, converts it into something usable and then leaves the nitrogen in the soil? Its called nitrogen fixation This also means that if you have a nitrogen loving plant like corn, you could plant them together (think pole beans growing up corn stalks!) or just rotate them. This means beans one year, corn the next in the same space.Right now the beans are ripening hard and fast. We love green beans but then the zucchini is also doing the same thing as is the basil… well you know what I mean, sometimes we can’t get everything eaten and so then I put it up for the winter… or the fall… or for next week when I can get to it. I was feeling rather energetic this week so when I got a bucket of beans from the garden, I decided to make Green Bean Soup.
When Don and I moved here, I introduced everyone to Green Bean Soup. I grew up on the stuff, Don’s family had never heard of it. The Mennonites, my heritage, had a way to make something from everything they had too much of. I guess they didn’t just plant a few beans, they planted lots of beans. Then when the beans came, they had to come up with something. Seeing as Ham is a Mennonite favourite, it only makes sense they took a ham bone and made a soup out of it. The trusty book I received from my Mom when we got married, the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, has the first section as Mennonite Dishes.
Thank you Mrs D. Warkentin from Steinbach… I wonder if you know how often your recipe has been used since this book was published? The key ingredient in the recipe is the summer savoury. Its unique taste is integral. When I make the recipe, I make the ham stock and let it cook quite a long time, then I let it cool to skim the fat off. I am happier with the end result if the fat is skimmed first… as is my waistline!
One can only make so much soup in the heat of summer, as lovely as it is, we still had more beans than I had ham hocks… so the next endeavour was the freezing of some french cut beans. I am the only one that really loves green beans this way, so I make little frozen packages for myself to have when Don is away in winter.
The key here is the firmness of the beans, if you try to french cut beans when they are limp, it becomes a bit difficult. I had a bucket of beans and don’t believe in making a HUGE production out of the processing. When you save up so much product to put up, you tend to get a bit overwhelmed. One bucket of beans is easy to do and very quick.
For Christmas I asked for a countertop ice machine (yes I ignored the “why do we need that” questions). I love the thing. For the bean project, I plugged it in when I started and by the time I am done, I had replaced the ice cubes I used for the ice water needed for the rapid cooling of the blanched beans. It makes 3 sizes of cubes, great for parties as there is already a lot of noise going on, so no one really notices the compressor sound. I just unplug it in between uses. AND its fits very conveniently on top of my mini wine fridge!
So I put my large 8 quart all clad stock pot on the stove, got it to boiling, Set the ice water in the sink, took the beans through the french cut gadget thing, blanched for 90 seconds, dumped them in the ice water, dried on a large bath towel, stuffed in ziplocs and in no time I had some bright packages of beans!
And there you have it. My grandma would be proud.