How to Can Dry Beans

Yes, you can can dry beans!

There have been more than 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-cook meal (in other words, it was nearly dinner time) so I didn't have time to cook beans from their dry state. I'm more organized these days, thank goodness. Most of the time, anyway. I seem to keep better track of my home-canned jars than store-bought cans: I appreciate food more when I can it myself (and even more so when I grow it myself and then can it).

Cooking dried beans requires a lot of water and energy, not to mention time. Why not can some of those dry beans so that you can just open a jar? You'll spend the time once and have enough jars of beans on your shelf for several meals.

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 star in your long-term food storage, so don't can them all!

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 beans in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. The beans will swell as they soak so you'll need to provide plenty of room for that expansion.

Pick through the beans to remove stones, broken beans and dirt clods. Soak overnight in a large bowl.

I can beans in pint jars, since there are just two of us at home now. If I need a larger amount, I open two jars. Each pint jar will hold about 3/4 cup of beans, measured before soaking. Since I know how many jars I can fit in my canner, I measure the beans ahead of time so I know I'll have a full canner load.

In the morning, pour off the soaking water, discard the water, move the beans to a large stockpot and cover with fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil, then cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Alternatively, instead of soaking overnight, you can cover dried, 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, cover with fresh water, boil and cook for 30 minutes as above.

Bring the beans to a boil, then cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, gather your equipment:

  • clean canning jars - check the rims for nicks that would prevent a good seal
  • new canning lids - don't reuse lids
  • rings or bands
  • canning funnel
  • jar lifter
  • 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 boiling water to the jars to bring up the level of the liquid.

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 help prevent mineral deposits on the jars.

When the beans have boiled on the stove 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, since I'll be seasoning the dish they go into.

Distribute the beans among the jars, then 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.

Pressure regulator on a pressure cooker.

Following the directions for your canner, close the canner and bring the temperature up. Steam will begin to flow from the vent pipe. Let the steam vent for ten minutes, then place the pressure regulator on the canner and wait for the dial gauge to register the correct amount of pressure.

Begin timing when the correct pressure is reached. Pints of beans require 75 minutes (one hour and fifteen minutes) at 10 pounds of pressure; quarts require 90 minutes (one and a half hours). Be sure to adjust the pressure for your altitude:

Pressure Canning
Adjustment for Altitude
Altitude (in Feet)Dial GaugeWeighted Gauge

When your timer goes off and your batch is done, 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.

Pressure cooker's air vent, or cover lock.

When you open the lid, be sure to lift the side farthest from your face first so that any steam will be directed away from you. The jars are still very hot. Use the jar lifter to carefully lift each jar straight up - do not tilt them or bump them on anything - and place on a padded surface such as a towel-covered counter, where drafts will not blow on them. Let them rest undisturbed for 24 hours.

Check the lids for a good seal.

After 24 hours, test the lids to see if they've sealed. If one "bounces" up and down, it did not seal, and you need to either put it in the refrigerator and use it soon or put the contents into the freezer; you cannot store it on a shelf if the jar did not seal correctly. You can process it again if you wish, but you must replace the lid with a new one.

Wipe down the outside of the sealed jars to remove any residue. Remove the rings for storage, label the jars and move them 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.

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