6 to 8 quarts water
3 to 4 tablespoons salt (1 ½ teaspoons per quart)
1 ½ pounds very fresh young green beans
1 to 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Lemon wedges or halves, for optional garnish
A large 8-to-10 quart kettle or stockpot with cover; a perforated insert or a strainer to remove beans from water; a large bowl of ice water unless serving at once; a frying pan; 12 inches top diameter, for reheating.
Bring the water and salt to a boil in the pot over high heat (with the insert in place if you are using one). Meanwhile, wash and drain the beans; snap off the stems and tails, andremove strings, if any, by pulling the stem down the sides. When the water is boiling vigorously, dump in the beans all at once. Clap on the cover and remove it the instant the water is again at the boil. If you have a buffalo iron or iron poker, it should be burning hot and ready to insert into the water the moment the beans go in. Cook at a boil for several minutes, then check frequently; they are done when they are cooked through but still have texture; they bend slightly when held horizontally by one end. Take a bite to be sure. As soon as they test done, remove them by lifting out the insert, or scooping the beans out with the strainer. Unless you are serving now, transfer them to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. When chilled, in 5 minutes or so scoop them out onto a clean towel.
To serve cold
Dry them in the towel and refrigerate, where they will keep nicely until dinnertime. If stored longer, they may lose their fresh taste.
To serve hot
Melt the butter in the large frying pan, toss in the beans, and continue tossing frequently over moderate heat until the beans are well warmed through. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and drops of lemon juice. Serve on hot plates or in a bowl and garnish, if you wish, with wedges of lemon.