Tuesday, June 07, 2022

about those green beans

It's a pretty classic meal: chicken fried steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy.  Just depends if you take gravy on your meat or not; extra pepper or not.

 I'm pretty proud of this meal as all of it, except the potatoes, is off the place.  Ironic that the potatoes are not, since most often they are.  Except for this time of year when any we still have left are sprouted beyond eating (and being fed to chickens and rabbits) and those in the garden are growing but not "new" yet.

But about those beans.  Those are salted green beans, which is not a preservation method I grew up with.  I first heard of these reading John Seymour's Fat of the Land. I love the narrative books on how people do things.  I don't want a prescription: I want to know how you did it.  If you were successful that is. If you tried homesteading for a year and quit, or put in one crop of cabbages and the groundhogs ate them, or anything else that you just gave up on, I don't like those books (and there are a shocking number of them).  Give me Payne Hollow by Harlan Hubbard, The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing, Coming Home to Eat by Gary Nabhan. Luckily there are lots of these too.

So John Seymour talked about salting green beans, and we thought about it but I don't think we ever tried it.  Years went by.  (Home) Canned green beans are ok. (Home) Frozen ones are pretty good but only for about half the winter. Dried green beans, "shuckey beans" are grand but they aren't green beans. Then the husband started following Jon Townsends of Nutmeg Tavern on YouTube, and he salted some beans (and also limed some eggs).

Two years ago we had green beans coming out our ears, so we decided to try it, finally.  Almost all the examples did mention frenching the beans, but we didn't have a frencher and we thought, ah, surely if you use enough salt....  Well, that didn't turn out so well. The chickens got all those, and we got a tiny little green bean frencher.

Last year we also had plenty of green beans, mostly McCaslins.  We canned quite a few, and we frenched and salted I believe two buckets full. Interestingly, last year's McCaslins were randomly tough.  We knew this even eating them freshly picked.  We tried picking and using only the youngest, smallest beans.  Didn't help. And so, randomly, some of the canned ones and some of the salted ones are tough too. We haven't figured out why exactly. Needless to say, the ones I had canned as gifts didn't end up getting given to anyone because of that. Still, for us, they are fine, at least until this year's beans come in.

I have always been somewhat of a green bean snob, having grown up calling them "string beans" (and who remembers the comedian by that name other than me?) -- we've always grown some variety of beans that require stringing, defaulting to half runners and McCaslins and greasy beans.  Lawd I love a good greasy bean. But this year we have at least one small planting of blue lakes that don't require stringing, especially destined for the frencher and salt preservation.

Because, you see, everyone has planted the cabbages that got eaten by the groundhog, or had their sweet corn eaten by the bears. Everyone has baked a cake that fell, or a loaf of bread that was just not all that. No one does the dance correctly the first time. The bread and cake and even the tough green beans are still edible, even enjoyable. And you learn.

Something always fails, and something always surprises you with how well it does. And you never know what will be what.

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