Jun 15, 2018

Freezing Butter Beans & Cooking Them

Oh the butter beans, it seems one either loves them or hates them.  I grew up with a mama and grandparents who really liked them.  They were a staple in our family gardens for sure.  Let's face it in southern vegetable gardens butter beans were on the must have list!  They still are as far as I'm concerned. 

Today I'm talking about preserving them, specifically freezing them.  Most of you probably know or have known for many years how to do this.  Just in case you don't or haven't done it before I'll share a few tips and ideas.  

Green Limas

The beans pictured above are green Lima Beans.  I also froze some of the Speckled or Colored Butter beans as grandma used to call them.

I don't remember where I found the measuring scoops above.  One of my girls probably gave them to me and it is something I wouldn't have thought useful.  I was wrong because I use them almost daily. 

This particular scoop is for 1 cup so that makes it easy to scoop level off with my hand and place into freezer bag.  I do waste a few freezer bags when I only want a pint.  The most available freezer bags around here are quart and gallon size.

It is more wasteful to freeze more than you'll use at one time and to throw out any of these hard earned vegetables would be a shame.

* I remember mama and the grandmamas using small pint tie bags and then using the white cardboard boxes to place the vegetables in for freezer safe freezing.  Those were great, then they began using the plastic pint and quart containers with lids for freezing.

Do any of you remember these?  I do and wish they still made them.  It made freezer storage very neat and well organized.

* I also remember the ladies blanching and laying out the beans on towels on the counter tops to cool.  They would get together go into each other's gardens to pick lots and lots of them.  They then would sit on the porch, or if too hot in the kitchen to shell and talk.  I remember lots of talk and laughter then!  They then would have an assembly line to get the freezing or canning done at a quicker pace.

Blanched in the bag ready for the freezer

* I remember Grandma Cora canning a lot of her beans, peas, soups etc.  It was a long time before they ever got a deep freezer as they called them in the day. That was a lot of work and tasted really good too.  I've done it, but for me it is too time consuming.  You would have to have a pressure canner and follow instructions extremely well for safe canning of these.

My Personal Tips and Directions
  1. PICK, Shell, or purchase yours from a local farmer or farmers' market.
  2. WASH and clean beans clearing out any trash, leaves etc from them, this is especially true for purchased beans shelled in a sheller. I recommend washing more than once to clean well. 
  3. DRAIN and set aside to blanch.
  4. USE a big stock pot to blanch. You can use a wire basket to blanch lots of beans in same water, or just put beans in pot and barely cover each time like my mama used to do.  The choice is yours.
  5. I also recommend not filling  * (see photo below) with more than 1/4 of the pot you are using full of water and beans. These things foam like the dickens and will boil over every time if you don't do this.  
  6. WATCH this pot after adding beans no matter the method you use.  Turning down the heat and preventing the boil overs. Turning on the fan/vent above stove helps with that as well.
  7. BEGIN counting when beans begin to boil.  Bean Size Blanching Time:  Small blanch 2 minutes--Medium blanch 3 minutes and--Large blanch 4 minutes. *The recommendations are to boil covered when timing.  I personally as well as my mama, grandmas and great grandma never put a lid on and they always turn out good.
  8. STRAIN immediately after blanching and rinse with cold water lots to cool the beans off and prevent further cooking.  Drain well and place in a large pan such as mine pictured to cool quickly.  OR--You could use ice water to cover the strainer of beans, but I find that too time consuming and rinsing well, placing in large flat pan does the same thing.
  9. MEASURE out and place in freezer bags.  Be sure to label with name date etc because it is amazing how different things can look after freezing.  
  10. PLACE in freezer. Beans can be frozen safely and still in good shape for 12-18 months.

* Beans foaming while blanching.

Cooking Frozen Beans   
  • Remove from freezer and barely cover with water to cook. 
  • Season with salt pepper if you like and we southerners use a little bacon or fat back grease to the pot.  (I don't use as much as in the past but it does give great flavor.) I use about 3/4-1 tsp. grease or 2 pieces bacon/fat back per quart of beans that I'm cooking. * I can still see my grandmother Goldie standing at her stove apron on cooking fat back to season the vegetables.  Nothing better than that plus you get to eat the seasoning bacon or fat back if you're lucky.*
  • You can place a piece of one of those two mentioned in a little water to boil a few minutes then add your beans if you wish. 
  • You may substitute olive oil or a little butter but I don't, sorry not the way we do it around here. You know I love butter but in this circumstance NOT... 
  • Bring beans to boil and immediately turn heat to medium low--low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  • Remove lid test bean to see if done at that time because there is nothing worse than mushy overcooked beans.  Add more salt if needed after tasting.
  • Turn off heat when done.  Let sit there until serving within 30 minutes for best flavor.

I also want to leave you with some professional information and instruction as well. 
Clemson Cooperative Extension Services--Freezing fruits and Vegetables--click HERE .

I am so excited to plant this variety of Lima Bean called Henderson
I purchased them from Seed Savers Exchange

These may go into a late summer garden if we're able to plant them
If not next spring here we come!

You can freeze seeds you know, well I do anyway.

Granddaddy Goodson
This man loved these beans and I too remember them being the very best!
I'll let you know if the historical seeds do well and how they taste! *Update these seeds are great the beans are so very delicious when picked small*
* I was almost grown when I found out that other people call a butter bean a Lima bean!
Oh no I couldn't handle that one! *

Happy Preserving to you!


  1. Thanks for this post- I so enjoyed it... brought back memories of the gardening, freezing and canning I did when the children were small. I still overdo just for the two of us, but pass on to other elderly folks at church.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Thank you! I know those folks at church are so very grateful to you! We share our bounty around here too. Good to hear from you.