how i freeze green beans in red sauce, and 14 more food-storage tips

SO MANY GREEN BEANS, so little time. That’s how I always feel around now: how to keep up with the glut of one of my favorite vegetables. I don’t like them canned (all olive green and overcooked!) and they can lose crunch or get ice-encrusted when blanched and frozen plain, so I put mine up in canning jars in the freezer, doused in homemade tomato sauce. Read how I freeze green beans and many more garden-fresh goodies.

freezing green beans in tomato sauce

MY METHOD FOR FREEZING green beans is simple, and results in one of my favorite red-sauce variations for serving over brown rice or pasta. Instead of blanching beans in boiling water, then quick-chilling them in ice water before freezing plain, I cut them up and put them into my homemade tomato sauce at the very last moment that it’s cooking. Assuming the sauce is bubbling, they’ll “blanch” in it immediately, so I take it off the heat at once and let it cool. The beans will turn bright green (as water-blanched ones so), but you don’t want them to cook through.

Ladle the bean-filled sauce into wide-mouth jars (freezer bags, as below, will work, too), leaving headroom for expansion of the food if it’s liquidy such as this one, and freeze. Straight-sided jars (rather than ones with “shoulders”) are best for freezing, and again: wide mouths.

Alternatively, for maximum control of the beans’ degree of crunch: Blanch or steam the beans very lightly, quick-chill in ice water, then put into red sauce that’s already cooled and ready to freeze.

Barely blanched beans in the sauce seem to hold up better than those frozen “naked”–no ice crystals form on the beans, and they have better texture when I warm them up to eat later on my rice or pasta. With a heavy-handed drizzle of good olive oil and plenty of fresh-grated Parmesan on top, of course.

14 more food-storage tips

  • Why I’m not just canning, but also freezing in glass such as Mason or  Weck jars: It’s about mounting evidence on the dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA). And glass is just great. Weck jars have BPA-free rubber seals; many canning lids containing BPA, so you need to ask when shopping, and buy the proper lids separately in some cases. (Plastic freezer bags will work in a pinch, of course, for many things, and I confess I still use some.)
  • I grow a year of parsley, then stash it in freezer “logs,” or
  • …a year of most any green herbs can be stored in green ice cubes (pestos), such as parsley, sage, chives, garlic scapes, rosemary, cilantro…you name it. A roundup of how to freeze herbs.
  • Frozen whole tomatoes: Why buy tins from the store? Pop whole fruits into bags, jars or freezer boxes; pop some out as needed. Before freezing, you can drop them in boiling water for a minute then ladle into a bowl of ice water to easily slip skins off first if you are anti-tomato skin, but I freeze mine as they come from the garden.
  • Tomato junk: What to do with the last dregs of the vegetable garden? Make an all-purpose base to soups, stews, chilis. Waste not…
  • Freezing garlic: Why put up with withering cloves in winter and spring when you can have peak-of-perfection garlic on hand? I freeze garlic and onions in Weck and Mason jars.
  • Frozen peppers: They’re cheap at peak harvest time, pricey in winter, and so easy to freeze. (So is rhubarb, by the way, and asparagus, though that last one wants the quickest blanching first.)
  • Fast broth or stock: Don’t waste your trimmings or less-than-perfect veggies. Make stock.
  • Easy refrigerator pickles: A hand-me-down recipe (and A Way to Garden’s most popular story ever). And an fyi on pickling salt: Why some batches of pickles get too salty; mystery solved. Oh, and you’ll need pickling spice, too.
  • Prefer bread and butter pickles? This 1952 vintage recipe, good in the fridge or hot-packed, is a new-to-me classic.
  • Applesauce? I freeze the year’s worth every fall, and here’s how. Same with love-apple sauce (meaning: tomato sauce!). Again, I do it fast and furious, leave skins on in both cases (more vitamins, more fiber), but you can remove them.
  • I freeze some peaches each summer, too, in canning jars with apple-juice concentrate as the “syrup.”
  • Baked beans: My recipe is delicious, good for you, and freezes beautifully, so make a double batch.
  • A final tip: With soups, broth, and other liquids, I don’t dilute as much as I would if I were serving immediately. “Concentrated” liquids take up much less freezer space.

how to enter to win the weck jars and books

THERE ARE 3 WAYS TO WIN [UPDATE: this giveaway is now closed], and each of the six winners chosen at random will win won a set of mini-tulip Weck jars; a signed copy of “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” from Margaret Roach, and Gayla Trail’s  recipe-filled “Drinking the Summer Garden” (delivered as a digital bundle). Two winners will be were chosen on each of our three websites.

All you have to do is answer this question:

Besides for putting up food, what do you use canning jars for?

(If your answer is “nothing,” tell us what you can in them, or go ahead and just say “Count me in” if you’re feeling shy or have no jars yet. We’re easy! And you can cut and paste the same answer all three places.)

Winners will be were drawn randomly after entries closed at midnight on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, and informed by email. Good luck to all, and I hope we’ve inspired you to spend some of your holiday weekend putting up the harvest.

  1. Nancy S. says:

    I use half-gallon and quart jars for pantry storage – rice, oats, beans etc. I make sun tea in HG jars, store dry tea in 4 oz and 8 oz jars. I also use various sizes in canning – this summer I’ve canned beets, pickles, and tomatoes . . . so far.

  2. Kim says:

    I bottle my own jam and pickles but I also use jars to store flower, herb, and vegetable seeds, dry goods like almonds, sugar, and sea salt, vintage buttons, sand and sea shells, and also to store veggie broth and soup in the freezer. You can never have enough jars!

  3. ayal says:

    As well as for canning I use my jars to store coffee beans, and to take my morning coffee out of the house with me. I often take a jar with me to a coffee shop and get them to put my coffee to go in a jar. Also have lots of jars in the cupboard full of dry goods…

  4. Sharon says:

    Put extra raspberries from the patch, a little sugar and vodka in the jar. Leave for a month or two, agitating gently when you feel like it..
    Strain into another Weck jar. Great Christmas gift, and just great in general.

  5. JoAnn says:

    I use canning jars for pantry storage (dry beans, etc), also for homemade salad dressing containers and left over food storage. So many great uses, in addition to canning.

  6. margaret says:

    ENTRIES FOR THE GIVEAWAY ARE NOW CLOSED, but you can continue to share your tricks for using canning jars — can you believe what a range of ideas we gathered here?

    And the winners from A Way to Garden are: Janelle and Marilyn. (Emails being sent to them.) Thank you all for entering1

  7. ginger says:

    We use canning jars for hand soap dispensers–the lids that fit them are from Lehman’s Hardware in Ohio. Excellent. I also use canning jars to store dry food and to hold flower boquets. I also have old blue ones on the shelf above my kitchen sink, just to look at them.

  8. Seo Chicago says:

    Those canning jars are amazing. I have never tried freezing green beans in red sauce but I love fresh green beans that I get at the local farmer’s market. This is something I will definitely try.

  9. anniegi says:

    I use canning jars for canning (tho not this year due to 3 weeks of no running water)
    as well as storage for food, dry goods, sugar/sweetener packets, herbs, as well as making a good cup of tea. I’d LOVE to win these, I’d find a good use for them. I love the site, it’s been helpful. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. theresa says:

    I have never seen these jars before and am excited about them, but I had a question. I tried freezing some soup in some of the old fashioned jars—and they of course burst and I cut my fingers grabbing the jars out of the freezer. When you write of freezing tomato sauce in glass jars I wonder how you do it? maybe you make sure to leave room for the liquid to expand upwards? Has this never happened to you? thanks

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Theresa. Yes, to freeze liquid items (even soup or sauce) in glass you should use wide-mouth jars, and I like straight-sided jars ones best. Leave “head room” (don’t fill completely) for expansion when the food freezes. So not jars with “shoulders” or a much narrower opening than the rest of the jar.

  11. Christine Smith says:

    I have used canning jars for years. Canned fruits, vegetables, jams, pickles, drinking glasses, storing bottle caps and other collectables, making herbal & medicinal teas, etc. This year I used them as centerpiece vases for my daughters wedding reception as there was a vintage theme. This Christmas gift giving, I will use them for homemade body scrubs and lotions. I don’t like to use plastic with harmful BPA. Thank you for your informative blog.

  12. Edith Ellis says:

    I use canning jars to store food items that are attractive to me and remain on the counter or open shelf. Like rice, granola, pasta, brown sugar. They jars are right there when I need them whether for breakfast or a quick snack. So much more attactive than a plastic container, they become part of my kitchen decor.

  13. Juley says:

    In addition to putting up food with canning jars I use them as decor accents by filling them with dried seed pods, conifer cones, pretty rocks, etc. from my garden and from walks with my dogs. I add attractive ribbon,copper wire or beads around the neck for an added splash of color. It’s an inexpensive way to brighten up a kitchen window or table.

  14. Pamela Hempel says:

    Dear Margaret, I do love the idea you had on blanching green beans in the tomato sauce. Last year I canned a lot of tomato products, do you have another idea if you would rather keep them plain? I think water would be to bland. Sincerely, Pam from Wisconsin

  15. lifeisamtn says:

    I use my canning jars for a variety of things: dry bean storage, herb infused oils and vinegars, fruit infused alcohol, dry chile storage, dried herb storage, as well as using the half pint jars for cocktails.

  16. Mingli says:

    I use canning jars for herbs and spices, especially the smaller ones, they are lovely on the kitchen counter too.

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