Fast forward 30(ish) years and you'd find me cleaning beans, soaking them overnight and then cooking them on the stove top for an eternity. Almost quite literally. At our altitude (almost 7000 feet), dried beans can take all day to cook.
While it was great to have our own fresh beans, when something takes you a day and a half to make, you want to keep it around, right? So, we started freezing batches of beans for later convenience. Gross. They get freezer burn quickly and turn quite mushy. I don't recommend it.
Hmmm...enter the Pressure Canner! We got this guy at the end of 2011 (December 27th, I think) and have been playing with him ever since!
Now, please don't think there wasn't some hesitation...there certainly was...and still is. This guy feels quite... intimidating. Size, bolts, weight, it's ability to crush small objects. Right. Anyhow, by reading and re-reading the instruction manual, and keeping it very close (still) while canning anything, we've pulled off a couple of great batches of beans and various veggies! My favorites so far being beets and beans! Really and truly, once you can your own beans, you will never eat them out of an aluminum can again! The taste is amazing, and the savings are substantial (especially once you start re-using your jars)!
Alright, enough chatter! Let's can some beans! We use the quart size jars because they are perfect for feeding our family of 3 (2 adults and one teenager). A quart of beans will make 3 big burritos or about 6 smaller, side-sized portions.
To start, take your dry beans and weigh them. A little less than half a pound will make one quart of beans. Let's say 6 ounces.
Next, clean your beans. Dump them out on your counter and go through them all a few at a time. Put the good beans in a bowl or colander and separate out the bad beans and any rocks you find.
Bad beans will be discolored, shriveled or just plain gross looking. Without a doubt, you will always find at least one rock in your dried beans, making it imperative that you do not skip this step! Broken teeth are not fun. Period.
Next, rinse your beans under running water and place them in a pot of water to soak for a few hours (4-10 is great - I usually start this process in the morning, then can them in the afternoon). This helps them soften up and release some of their gases. Your belly and your family will be grateful for this step, trust me.
While your beans are soaking you can sterilize your jars and utensils. (I have read that this step isn't necessary when pressure canning, but it makes me feel better to complete this step anyway.) My dishwasher is my best friend when it comes to this job...just don't ever put your lids in the wash, they'll lost their ability to stick properly. Those should be washed by hand with warm-ish to hot water.
Then, place your pot on the stove and heat your beans until their almost boiling. This allows you to hot pack your beans. You're not "cooking" them, just heating them up.
While your beans are heating up, chop up some garlic (1-3 cloves per quart depending on your preference) and throw it in the bottom of each jar. Also add a half a teaspoon of salt to each jar (add more or less to taste). You'll have to experiment with your ow seasonings. We keep it simple and add more later if we want to for a specific meal.
Ladle your beans into your quart jars until each jar is about 3/4 full...
Top them off with the remaining bean liquid in your pot. If you run out of bean "juice" you can just add some hot water to the top.
Make sure to leave enough room (head space) at the top of your jar and check for bubbles. Wipe the rim of your jar, put on your lids and rings on and place the jars in your pressure canner.
Here is where it is imperative that you follow your canners instructions. You want to have enough water in the bottom of your canner, the lid to fit right, the bolts to screw on evenly and the timing to be pretty close to perfect (too long and your beans will be mushy, to short and they will be hard...gross). Read your manual and keep it close. The weight you use and the timing will depend on your altitude and the size of jars you're using, so (for your safety) I won't give you specifics here.
Once you've completed the canning process and have opened that guy back up (always remember to lift the lid away from your face - it is hot in there and steam burns!), carefully remove your jars with your lifter and place them on a towel on your counter top to cool and continue to seal (the popping sound of sealing cans has become one of my favorite sounds).
Viola! You have your very own canned beans!
After they're completely cooled, make sure they're sealed by pushing down on the lid (it should not move) and by pulling on the rim with your fingertips (it shouldn't move then, either). If they're not sealed properly, put the jar in your fridge and eat those beans in the next few days. If they're properly sealed (yay!), label them (I write with permanent marker on the tops of mine) with the date and what they are and put them on your pantry shelf or in the cupboard. I usually wait until the next day to do this step...this allows the jars enough time to cool completely and gives me piece of mind that they have actually sealed correctly. You also might need to wipe down the outside of your jars before you put them away if there's been any seep-age during the canning process or if your water leaves any minerals on your jars.
There you have it! Your very own canned beans! Enjoy!!!
If you're looking for some more information on canning, you can find tons of info on the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website.
Linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #16