Blanching green beans brings out the natural sweetness present in the vegetable and transforms them from a dull, pale green to a brilliant, deep color. Blanching also keeps the vegetable from getting mushy and prevents nutrient loss, which makes it an essential step in preparing green beans for freezing. You can use freshly blanched beans in salads or as a side dish.
Cut off the bean tips on both ends, removing the woody stem and the thin, curly tail. Cut off and discard any discolored or softened portions of the beans. Wash the raw beans well under running water prior to cooking them. You can blanch the green beans trimmed and whole or cut into smaller pieces, but keep the pieces consistently sized for even cooking.
Blanch beans by boiling or steaming. While you can technically blanch beans in the microwave, this methods leads to uneven cooking, resulting in poor texture and color. Instead, bring a large pot of water to boil, using 1 gallon per pound of beans; salt is optional. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully lower the beans into the water and wait for it to return to a boil. At that point, let the beans cook for another 3 minutes, then remove them quickly using a strainer ladle or tongs. To steam blanch your beans, add no more than 1 or 2 inches of water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Arrange the beans in a single layer in a steam basket and lower it into the pot. Cover and steam the beans for 4 to 5 minutes.
As soon as you pull the beans from the water, immediately plunge them into a prepared bowl of ice water. Leave the beans submerged for as long as it took to blanch them, usually 3 to 5 minutes. Thoroughly drain the beans after cooling them. To freeze or refrigerate them, pack drained and cooled blanched beans into a food-safe container, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Store the beans in the fridge for up to four days or in the freezer for up to one month.
Blanched green beans can be eaten immediately -- still warm -- dressed with salt, pepper and olive oil or butter for a simple, light side dish. The cooled beans can be added to salads, where their length and brilliant color add visual interest. Add blanched, cooled beans to chopped romaine, olives, hard-boiled egg and steamed tuna and dress them with a Dijon vinaigrette for a French-inspired salad. The blanched beans may be added to a spicy, sweet dressing made with sesame-seed oil and garlic, then tossed with caramelized onions and red peppers for a spicy, green bean dish.