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It's a funny business we do here at Furmano's. We spend most of the year canning dry beans. In fact, initially we began canning dry beans to fill down time in production during different periods of the year. Now, those beans are the largest piece of our business.
This time of the year is special though, and has always been our bread and butter: Fresh Pack Season. This is when we are pulling crops from the fields and canning them for winter usage. We can a variety of vegetable products but specifically this time of year, we have just finished harvesting snap beans and packing bean salads.
Snap bean packing season is always an adventure. Check out these trucks full of green and wax beans!
That's an amazing amount of beans we bring into the plant on a single trailer and what's even more incredible is how quickly we're able to blow through one of those trailers. We have to use a pitchfork to move all those beans onto a conveyor just to get them out of there!
Something Furmano's is especially proud of is that our bean salad is made from fresh beans. It's pretty standard in our industry to make 3 and 4 bean salad using IQF green and wax beans, which can ultimately affect the texture of the finished product. Our bean salad is always made from fresh harvested beans and the difference is quite noticeable. There's a real nice "snap" to our snap beans.
The beans run through 4 different picking sections to make sure get all the "goodies" out of the beans. Mostly those "goodies" are things like stem, leaves, and stones. From time to time, we may also find cute little friends like snakes, mice and frogs. They are always an adventure, especially when the people working the picking tables get surprised by them but we do a really good job of finding our friends and finding them new homes in the fields away from the plant.
After going through all those picking and cleaning stations, the green and wax beans get mixed with dark red kidney beans (and chick peas in the case of 4 beans salad), which we cook from a dry state, and diced red peppers, and are dumped into a gigantic filling bowl.
That fills 24 cans at a time with a 60% to 40% blend of snap beans. Then it goes into a separate filler that adds the brine, which is a unique and tasty sweet and sour vinaigrette, used to acidify the beans to make them shelf stable (lowering the pH below 4.2) before hermitically sealing the can to keep out the bad "bugs". On of the biggest adjustment for me, when I came to Furmano's, coming out of the fresh food and restaurant industry, was understanding these concepts of sterility.
We go to great lengths to make sure all the "hitchhikers" are out of our of our beans. It's just one of those challenges you have to account for when dealing with agriculture. If you grow it outside, you have to respect that the outsides doesn't know where your fields starts and their homes end. It really drives home the "farm to table" philosophy that is guiding so many of our purchasing decisions these days. Seeing first-hand the care that goes into the harvesting of our vegetables has given me great "roots" (pun completely intended) in how the world exists around our lives and our industries.
So here's to another successful Fresh Pack Season. It's sure to be filled with more excitement!
Chef Paul, a Certified Research Chef, is a 2002 graduate of Yorktowne Business Institute School of Culinary Arts in York, Pennsylvania. There he was class valedictorian and received the Chef Michael Hostetter Memorial Award for Culinary Excellence. He is a member of the Research Chefs Association and the Refrigerated Foods Association and has over 15 years of experience.
Working in restaurants since the age of 16, Paul has spent most of his life working with food; a love he developed in family style restaurants, honed in school, and practiced in fine dining establishments. Never one to be defining himself with a particular cuisine, Paul explores the world's palate with excitement. "The world is full of people who have made incredible foods with what is in their backyard and we now have access to all those wonderful flavors and combinations," he says. That love and excitement for flavor he now brings to Furmano Foods.