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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and the kids! Check on the kids!