Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oh Beans

One day a friend of mine asked me if I would like to join her canning beans. What? You mean you don't have to buy them canned? You can actually can them yourself? What an amazing concept! Since she was an experienced home canner and seemed confident that I wouldn't singlehandedly ruin the process, I agreed to try it. Well, more like I agreed to assist her canning beans.

Since that day, I have been hooked on canned beans. What's not to love? The cost is seriously cheaper than purchasing canned whole or refried beans. Like everything else homemade, they taste better than store bought. Also, making them at home just feels good. I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment after we finish canning 25 pounds of beans. I don't know if they are actually healthier simply because I canned them myself, but it feels like they are.

So, how do you can beans? So glad you asked. Let me attempt to describe the process to you. (Of course, it would really be better if you just came and joined us.)

Purchase beans. I like to buy organic beans. Sort through the beans and pick out any bits of dirt or small rocks. Buying organic beans seems to dramatically reduce the amount of junk in the beans. (These are pictures of pinto beans.)

Collect your supplies. You will need a pile of clean canning jars (we mostly use quart sized jars), lids and rings. I would love to give you an exact amount, but I can never remember how many. Salt is another necessity. A couple of other handy dandy items are a jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, and a canning funnel. Of course, you cannot can beans without a pressure canner.

Soak the beans. The night before you plan to can beans, start the beans soaking. For 25 pounds, I use my waterbath canner and 2 or 3 stockpots to soak the beans. Don't forget that the beans will expand a lot! I generally try to only fill the pot 1/3 with beans then fill the pot to the brim with water.

Dump out the soaking water. At this point, I dump out the soaking water, pack the soaked beans into the car, try to fit my kids in the car and head to my friend's house. She has the pressure canners and, well, we have just always canned the beans over at her house. (If the soaking water seems exceptionally dirty, give the beans an extra rinse. Again, organic beans are cleaner and will save you time here!)
Fill the pot with water and bring the beans to a boil. Yes, it may take quite some time to come to a "full rolling boil" since this is a huge pot of beans. Once they are boiling, set the timer for 30 minutes.

While boiling, skim off the foam. I have heard that the impurities rise to the top and also that skimming off the foam helps to reduce the gassy properties of beans. I don't know if these things are true, but the foam sure does look gross and it gives me something to do while waiting for the beans to finish boiling.

Simmer the sealing lids. When getting down to the last 5 or so minutes on the timer, start the lids simmering. This is one of the canning basics, whether you are using a waterbath canner or a pressure canner.

Fill jars with beans. Here is where that canning funnel comes in very handy. Fill the jars with beans and water up to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top. We always end up using additional water to fill up the jars, so have some boiling hot water ready.

Add salt. Using quart sized jars, add 1 tsp. of salt. Well, ahem, that is the suggested amount of salt. The beans just taste better if you use 2 tsp. of sea salt. (If you are canning pint sized jars, use half the salt.)
Seal the jars. Wipe the rims with a damp, clean rag to remove any bean water or salt residue. Yes, those things can keep the jars from sealing and after all this trouble, unsealed jars is a drag. Use the magnetic lid lifter to remove the lids from the simmering water. Place the lid on the clean rim then screw on a ring.

Add water to the pressure canner. Add water up to your first knuckle. Do you just love that precise measurement?

Add sealed jars to the pressure canner. By the way, it is much easier to place the pressure canner where you plan to process the beans before filling the canner with beans. We have a small canner (holds 7 quarts) and a large canner (holds 16 quarts) going at the same time.

Seal the pressure canner. Place the canner lid on top and secure the pressure canner. Start heating up the canner until it begins to steam. Allow the canner to steam for 15 minutes, then close the pressure valve.
Process the beans. Watch the pressure carefully and once the canner gets to 10 pounds of pressure, stabilize the heat to keep the pressure constant. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. (This pressure gauge is off, which is why it is marked at 14 pounds of pressure.)

Slowly relieve the pressure and remove the lid. After the processing time is completed, turn off the heat and patiently wait for the pressure to come down. Once there is no more pressure, carefully remove the lid.

Remove the beans. Now use the jar lifter and remove the beans from the canner, placing them on a counter top. Use a towel on the counter if you would like to avoid an extremely sticky counter. Now listen to the beautiful popping sound of the jars sealing and leave the jars alone for 24 hours.

Heat up some tortillas, grate some cheese, and break the rules by cracking open a jar of beans since, of course, they taste best fresh. Enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor. Mmmmm......

Oh, and the kids! Check on the kids!


  1. This is probably a much more fun process if you do it with a friend. There are times I really miss canning.

  2. Well, yes, I would certainly say that doing it with a friend is the best way to do it!

  3. Oh yeah it is the best I so enjoy it :) awesome post

  4. Oh man that sounds fun! I've cooked and frozen beans but canning would be WAY more fun! Can I can with you this summer/fall? I'll provide freshly grown and dried beans????

  5. That would be so much fun, Celia! We should definitely do that.

  6. I try to use dry beans instead of store canned as often as I can, but I've never thought to can them myself. Seems like a lot of trouble, when I can just soak them overnight and have them ready the next day. But then, I'm not a huge fan of canning. :)

  7. Well, Sara, I am not a huge fan of planning ahead. :) This way I can do it all at once, then whenever I need beans, I can just grab a big jar. Soaking and cooking works great too!