There have been a few times in my life that I've reached for a can of kidney beans in my pantry and realized that I've used the last one. Poor planning on my part.
Sure, I had a bag of dry beans, but it takes hours and hours to get those ready to eat, and the chili I'd planned to make is a quick-cool meal so I didn't have time to cook beans from their dry state. I'm more organized these days, thank goodness.
Not many of us have hours and hours that we can spend babysitting beans while they cook. It also requires a lot of water and energy to cook them all day long. Why not can some of those dry beans so that you can just open a jar and make a meal as though you'd opened a can?
It's easy to do, although it takes a little longer than other canning projects, since you need to soak the beans just as though you were going to cook them all day.
Dry beans do have a place on your pantry shelves, so don't can every bag of beans you own. In the wintertime, cooking beans all day long warms up the house and gives off such a mouthwatering smell; that alone is a good reason to have dry beans on your shelf, but dry beans also excel in your long-term food storage.
Canning beans, like any other low-acid food, requires a pressure canner; you can't safely water-bath can beans.
To pressure can your dry beans:
Soak your beans overnight. Pick through the dry beans and remove any little stones, broken beans, and dirt clods. Place them in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. The beans will swell so you'll need to provide plenty of space for that expansion.
Alternatively, instead of soaking overnight, you can cover washed beans with boiling water in a saucepan. Boil for two minutes, remove from heat, soak 1 hour and drain, discarding the water. Move the beans to a stockpot and cover with fresh water as above.
Bring the beans to a boil, then cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
clean canning jars - check the rims for nicks that would prevent a good seal
new canning lids - don't reuse lids
rings or bands
tongs or a lid magnet - to remove the lids from hot water
a damp cloth to wipe the jar rims
large spoon to scoop the beans into the jars
Put the flat lids in a small saucepan and cover with hot water to soften the seals. Keep the canning jars warm until you're ready to fill them. (Hot beans in hot jars placed in hot water in the canner - that's how you help prevent broken jars.)
Have another saucepan of water boiling on the stove. I never have enough cooking liquid to fill up all the jars and always need more.
Add water to your canner according to the manufacturer's directions. My pressure canner takes three quarts of hot water, so I fill a quart jar three times and dump it in. I also add about two tablespoons of white vinegar to prevent mineral deposits on the jars.
When the beans have boiled for 30 minutes, fill your jars using the canning funnel. You can add salt at this point if you wish: 1/4 teaspoon of canning salt per pint, or 1/2 teaspoon per quart. I can mine without salt and season them when I open the jars.
Fill the jars to within one inch of the top with the cooking liquid, adding boiling water if needed to bring up the level. Headspace is measured from the top of the jar, not the bottom of the threads. (That probably seems obvious to many of you, but I actually thought it was from the bottom of the threads when I first started canning.)
Use a damp rag to wipe the rim of the jars to remove any food or grease that might have splashed. Using tongs or a lid magnet, remove a lid from the warm water and place on the jar. Add the ring and tighten just until it's finger tight; do not over-tighten.
The jars are hot, so use your jar lifter to pick up a jar and place it carefully in the canner.
Following the directions for your canner, close the canner and bring the temperature up. Steam will begin to flow from the vent pipe. After ten minutes of letting the steam vent, place the pressure regulator on the canner and wait for the dial gauge to register the correct amount of pressure.
When the correct pressure is reached, begin timing. Pints of beans require 75 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure at my altitude; quarts require 90 minutes.
When the timer tells me my batch is done, I turn off the heat and move the canner carefully off the burner. It's hot and very heavy, so be careful. Let the canner cool down naturally; DO NOT take the top off or try to hurry the cooling-down process. The air vent/cover lock will eventually drop down, and you can then remove the pressure regulator. Wait another ten minutes after removing the pressure regulator before you take the lid off the canner.
Wipe down the outside of the sealed jars to remove any residue. Remove the rings for storage, label the jars, and move to your storage area. Now you're ready to make chili with your canned kidney beans, or refried beans with your canned pinto beans, or soup with any kind - or even a mixture - of home-canned beans.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
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