My parents in law got me a pressure canner for Christmas and yesterday I canned beans. I have to say I am now hopelessly hooked and in love!
I’ve never seen anyone use a pressure canner before and never used one myself either, but I’ve been studying for months and the instructions that came with my canner were pretty clear.
Now I have to step back a minute and talk about beans…
Dried beans are an amazingly useful food. They are high in fiber and protein, they’re cheap, and they can be stored for a good 30 years without spoilage. They’re a catch 22 though, because they take a huge amount of fuel to cook!
Until this year, I had only cooked dry beans in a crock pot. I don’t use one now because our solar power setup is pretty small and we need the power for work-related stuff. I haven’t yet gotten a good solar oven built and my temporary ones have not successfully cooked one cup of dried beans, nor have my haybox cooking attempts worked with dry beans. So about a month ago I decided to see how long it would take to cook them with the propane stove in the camper. It took 6 hours to get the beans as tender as I like them, and our propane supply was shortened by almost a full month! Unacceptable.
Enter the pressure canner :)
Getting it for Christmas was a huge surprise and I couldn’t wait to can something right away :D I had plenty of beans on hand so I figured I could start by testing my theory.
Now the book and all the “acceptable” canning recipes online called for soaking and cooking the beans first but I felt this defeated my purpose. So I researched awhile and read the canner book some more… Then I noticed something interesting…
The book says that for regular pressure cooking, soak dry beans overnight them pressure cook them 3-6 minutes and they’re done. THREE to SIX Minutes!
Apparently the “soak and cook” approach before canning is a safety precaution. Not bacteria or food poisoning safety but explosion safety.
Beans expand to about three times their size when rehydrated. One cup of dry beans is about three cups cooked. So if you put too much dried beans into a canning jar it can explode. So, before you decide to try my method be warned: It is NOT recommended or approved by the FDA or any other official food safety body.
I put 1/2 a cup dried beans into pint jars. (top picture) Four of my jars got pinto beans and two got white great northern.
Two of the pinto bean jars were filled with almost boiling water and that was it. The other four got 1/2 tsp of (non-iodized) salt, a few cranks from the black pepper mill, about a tsp of dried onions and loosely packed ham slices and bits left over from Christmas. The ham was approximately one fourth of the jar but very loose since it was mainly for flavoring.
Those four jars were a test to see if the beans would soften when pre-seasoned while still dry, and the two plain jars were a control, or base, to compare the others to. I filled all of them with almost boiling water and left one inch of head space.
I wiped the rims, put on lids and rings finger tight, then processed at 15 pounds for 75 minutes as instructed in the canning book. I’m slightly more than 2000 feet above sea level here.
Now the first time with a pressure canner is a bit nerve racking. It seemed to take awhile to build up pressure and then I had no idea what “rocking” meant for the regulator weight. It took awhile to start too and in the meantime it was hissing, spitting steam and making crackling noises. Once the rocking started and I figured out the sweet spot for the burner flame it was just a matter of waiting :)
When I took the jars out the liquid was still boiling inside them, but the canner was clean! Nothing overflowed or spilled and the lids started pinging into place pretty quickly. I sat them on a towel and covered them so they’d be safe from drafts when the dog runs in and out, and left them there overnight.
This morning I removed the rings and put the jars in the pantry, then tonight we taste tested one of the great northern.
It was wonderful!! The beans are amazingly tender! I am tickled pink that they turned out so well and I’m now planning a whole host of other canning projects including: chili beans, meat, soups and chili con carne. I’m seriously going to need a heck of a lot more jars and lids! :D