Planning Ahead Pays Off

Back in March when it was too cold to garden and Hubby had just begun his experiment in retirement, I spent three days in the kitchen (while Hubby was settling in to his new spot in the office) canning bags of beans I’d accumulated from grocery store sales. I canned pinto, Great Northern, navy, and new to my bean canning roster — Garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I think in the end I ended up with somewhere around 70 jars (varying sizes) of beans.

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For months now I have enjoyed using these beans in various recipes and can’t say enough about how nice it is to use home-canned beans right from the pantry whenever I want. I’ve especially enjoyed making Hummus with the garbanzo beans.

Today I made a batch of baked beans. It’s actually the second batch I’ve made this year, but although I took pictures of the first batch I neither did a post nor did I seem to find it necessary to save the recipe. I know we liked it, but I can’t cry over spilt milk. So this morning I spent several hours reviewing recipes, choosing ingredients, and then making a batch of quick, saucy beans.

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For the entire story and recipe check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking for Saucy Homemade Baked Beans. These turned out excellent. It’s funny though, when I look back at the pictures of the ingredients I used for the first batch of beans I made, they look very different from the ones I used this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I decide to continue my experiment with baked beans because there is always room for improvement.

Losing my first recipe could be considered a bad thing, but at least I found another one that everyone liked and got to experiment with some different ingredients, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Don’t Spill The Beans…Can Them!

One of the first “pressure canning” projects I ever tried was beans.  I canned pinto beans for refried beans and great northern beans for soup and a garlic & bean side dish I like to serve with pork.  They turned out very good even though at the time I was tremendously green when it came to pressure canning and extremely intimidated by the entire process.

Since then, I have used my pressure canner many times and become as comfortable with it as I am with water-bath canning.  What would have been a source of stress for me just a little over a year ago, is now one of my favorite kitchen gadgets to use.

Last week I really needed to do something that would relax me and something I was somewhat confident I could do without fail.  So I pulled out the bags of beans I’ve been collecting for the past couple of months and decided to take a couple of days to can them.

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When I canned beans previously, I soaked them, cooked them, and then canned them. A somewhat long and tedious process.  In researching various methods of canning beans, I learned that not everyone does them the same.  Sure, everyone pressure cans them, that is the only safe way to can beans, but not everyone cooks them or even soaks them.  This meant it was time to do a little experimenting.

In order to ease myself into this project, I chose the easiest method of canning beans first – dry.  What is the worst that could happen?  I’d waste an hour of my time, a package or two of lids would be chalked up to experience, and the cost of the electricity.  Certainly no reason not to try.

To can beans dry the process is very simple.  First you prepare your jars, lids, and canner.  Next you boil a big pot of water.  While the water reaches a boil, rinse and sort beans.

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Then for every pint of beans you measure 1/2 cup dry beans into a hot jar, add 1/2 tsp. salt,

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cover with boiling water, set on hot lids and bands,

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and put in pressure canner.

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Could it get any easier than that?  Possibly, but I don’t know how.

Seeing as this was so easy, I had to put some sort of challenge into it.  Although I am comfortable using my pressure canner, I decided that this time I would use my 22 quart canner and layer the jars. Typically I use my 22 quart to process quarts and my 12 quart for pints.  This time I decided to fill the 22 quart to the hilt and see what happened.

The book that came with my 22 quart pressure canner indicated I should be able to fit 20 pint jars.  I’m not sure if I just don’t know how to pack a canner, but I could only get 18 – 9 per level.  I did Great Northern, Pinto, and Navy beans as well as a few jars of Black Eyed Peas and then several jars combining all the different varieties.

Once the canner reached 10 pounds of pressure, I processed the jars for 75 minutes.  The when it depressurized, I removed the lid and took out the hot jars.  This is what they looked like.

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Honestly I was disappointed.  Filling the jars with only 1/2 cup of beans left lots of room in them, even after they expanded.  I haven’t opened the jars yet, but the fact that the jars are not full of usable beans alone means that I will probably not use this method again.  Pantry space and jars are limited and making the best possible use of both is vital in our house.

If I were to tweak the amount of beans, varying by type, I’m sure I could probably find the right proportions of dry beans per pint, but right now I don’t have that kind of time.  I plan on testing the beans later this week, but it appears the beans did expand during the processing time as promised, just not to the full capacity of the jar.  I suppose if I had limited time and unlimited space, I would consider using this method, but as this isn’t my case, I’ll have to stick to a method that yields full jars.

While the dry beans were processing, I began washing and preparing the second method of beans I wanted to try.  This method called for sorting through the beans, washing them, and then putting them in a pot full of water.

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I brought the pot to a rolling boil and then removed it from the heat and let it stand overnight.

Next day I poured off the water from the pot of beans, rinsed the beans, then returned to the pot and filled again with water.

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Placing the pot on the stove I turned it to high until it boiled.  Meanwhile, I prepared the jars, lids, canner, and pot of boiling water.  Once the beans came to a full rolling boil, I removed them from the heat and filled my jars using a slotted spoon, added the salt and clean boiling water and continued processing as I had for the dry beans.

After the 75 minutes processing and cooling, I opened the canner and found wonderfully full jars of beans.  Not quite as quick and simple as the dry bean method, but easier than cooking the beans all day on the stove and then canning.

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It is nice that there are so many options when it comes to canning beans.  Trying these two methods, after having tried what I thought was the “traditional” way of cooking the beans all day before canning, gives me several options to choose from.  Knowledge is power and although the dry bean method might not be my first choice, it is sure nice to know it is out there and in a pinch, it can work, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.