Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Last Green Beans of Summer: Home-Done Ftrench Cut

Tough Green Bean Rescue: French cut!
Big ole green zeppelins. Those are the green beans I came home to after a week on the beach, a far cry from the tender haricots verts those plants were supposed to be producing. This batch was pretty much the last gasp of those plants; half their leaves were gone, and they look very sad. Zeppelins is really an exaggeration, but they were BIG. And tough and stringy, two attributes that have been bred out of modern beans, assuming you pluck them off the bushes and vines before they are mature.

The best way to use overly large, mature vegetables is usually to slice them into smaller pieces and cook them long enough to tenderize them. Works fine for giant zucchini, carrot clubs and softball-sized turnips. It would be tedious and hugely time consuming to hand sliver beans with a knife, though, or just consign them to the compost bin if all else fails.

Being weird, and not willing to waste (or compost) anything the garden produces at this point of the year when everything is winding down, I had to go rummaging to find my vintage bean frencher or slicer that I had stashed. It's one of those things that I bought years ago at a garage sale and am happy to have about once a year when I've let my green beans get overly large.It's heavy small, dark green and marked Hunersdorff, Germany, so it likely dates from before WWII. Nice solid tool, with 6 sharp blades that turn with a hand crank. I can imagine the original owner, wearing a print apron, cranking out buckets of slivered green beans to can for the winter. There are modern versions, including a very good one called a Bean Krisk that you can buy online from Kitchen Kapers, but I still like to bring out this old German workhorse and crank out some french-cut beans for dinner. I feel virtuous not wasting the last of this years beans.

My vintage bean cutter,
it'll probably mystify its next owner.
My kitchen counters, and my kitchen table are too thick to tighten the clamp onto, but necessity being a mother, I stuck it to a snack table with a kitchen towel to protect the wood finish. Not pretty, but serviceable.

If you french-cut beans, start by cooking them in salted, boiling water for a normal cooking time, and start tasting. If they are large but not too tough they could be cooked in as little as 7 minutes, but they could take twice that long if they were stringy and mature. Doodle them up with good butter, and salt if needed or flavored olive oil. Eat and enjoy smugly. 

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