Ask the Goats is an occasional Monday feature in which we attempt to answer your questions about growing, making, eating, and preserving food. Got a question for the goats? Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Q. Fresh green beans are out of season and are very expensive at the moment. Have you ever heard of using frozen for something like canned four-bean salad? They would already have been blanched. I’m guessing they would need to be dried well after thawing first but other than that would they work?—Natalia
Q. Just a question…can pickled three-bean salad then be frozen?—Shana
A. The answer to both questions is yes. But why would you?
Let’s take Shana first. I’m not entirely sure whether you wanted to freeze a fresh or canned four-bean salad, but neither strikes me as a particularly good idea. Fresh vegetables with vinegar in them do not, in general, freeze well. And if you’re talking about freezing a jar of pickled three-bean salad that you’ve opened, the resulting texture is going to be very sad. Remember, you’ve already simmered these beans in a vinegar solution and subjected them to 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Any remaining crispness is going to be obliterated by freezing. If you can’t finish your jar of three-bean salad in one sitting, rest assured that it will keep open in your refrigerator for at least a week. After all, it’s pickled.
On to Natalia. It’s the same problem, only in reverse. The texture of frozen green beans is not great to begin with. Although I haven’t personally tried it, I would guess that a canned four-bean salad that included frozen green beans would be very limp indeed. But I’m still having a hard time imagining why you would want to do this, since frozen green beans are already preserved. As Natalia herself points out, green beans are out of season. If you’re already buying frozen green beans anyway, why not just thaw out as much as you can consume at any given time? Why go through the time and effort of preserving something that’s already preserved?
I actually went back to Natalia on this very issue, and her answer made me reconsider. First, she cited cost—but that doesn’t answer the “why-bother-canning-them” question. More to the point, she said, “It’d be something I could can off season, not in the rush and heat of summer, and have available to eat from a jar this winter.” And that’s when I realized that I have, of course, done this very thing with frozen fruits, and even blogged about it here, and that it was more than a little hypocritical of me to chastise Natalia for canning green beans off-season. On more than one occasion, faced with a counter full of freshly picked strawberries, blueberries, or cherries, I’ve decided to stash the extras in the freezer and deal with them in the winter. Other people have told me that they enjoy off-season canning as a way to sharpen their food preservation skills, the better to face the onslaught of summer produce.
So, Natalia, you have my apologies. That being said, I still wouldn’t can a four-bean salad from frozen green beans, unless they’re your own. I think the texture will be disappointing, and if you end up tossing the results, you’ve negated the cost savings from buying frozen in the first place. If you find it more convenient to can a four-bean salad in winter than in summer, at least go with fresh green beans. And if you just want off-season canning practice, I recommend working with something where the texture is less critical, like a jam made with frozen fruit. Better yet, explore what you can do with the remaining produce that’s still available. You could make applesauce, or any number of pickled carrot thingies, or lemon curd.
How do you feel about off-season canning? Do you oppose it in principle? Endorse it only for things that come out of your own food preservation stash (root cellaring, freezing, etc.)? Love it for time management?