Canning Dry Beans

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Getting started here with the promised tutorial. Here's information to consider while I whip up some text to go with the photos I took. More to follow...

This tutorial will hopefully help fellow canners wind their way through the process of canning dry and horticultural beans. The later are referred to as Southern peas and require the same method. My goal is to help you organize the process and explain what makes canning dry beans more tricky than canning other foods. As a disclaimer, I am not a certified extension agent though I follow the directions of the nationally tested recipes. The purpose of this tutorial is to help you can dry beans in an organized manner. Based on my experience, which includes numerous failures though I followed the Ball Book and NCHFP instructions to the letter, I hope this helps others have a more positive beginner experience. Much of the same organizational suggestions can be applied to processing other foods. I will assume you have basic pressure canning knowledge and experience but please feel free to ask if you need further information. I am still learning too. If you have been water bath canning but stepping out into pressure canning I think this will be helpful. I wish I had this information when I started as it would have avoided the family suffering meals of failed bean cannings, batch after batch. Urp!

So why is canning dry beans tricky? The answer is multifaceted. (1)There is no way to know the actual age of the beans in the bag regardless of out date. This equates to not knowing the moisture content which means you will not have an absolutely definitive way to gauge a water-to-bean weight ratio. It's trial and error. Though you can use a successful ratio of water to beans in one batch, I guarantee your subsequent bean cannings come out with varying levels of liquid to beans; maybe more or maybe less. (2) Each bean type has a different make up and starch content. Overall, you will find home canned beans suspended in a more gelatinous base than commercially canned ones. This "gelatin" is actually starch but in some beans, like garbonzos, it is almost clear and in other darker colored beans it is thick and colored like the bean. Good eating and healthy unless you plan on using those beans for salads, or dishes where perfect shape is required. In that case, plan on canning few beans in lots of water to minimize the starchy component. If you plan on using beans in soups, stews, Mexican dishes, etc. then have at it when it comes to maximizing jar space with more beans and less water. (3) The Ball Book and NCHFP amounts are not accurate no matter which bean type I've used. They suggest a five pound start weight of dried beans to yield seven quarts of processed beans. Whoa! Don't attempt that! It's way too excessive for the jar space. You will either blow all your jars with failed seals or be eating beans for months. We are talking about quantity here, not canning technique, so I feel safe in saying you can't cram their suggested amount into seven quarts. This was the number one reason for my beginning bean canning failure as the beans suggested in the instructions expanded and prevented the jars from sealing. You should be able to successfully process 3-4 pounds of dry beans in seven quarts but not more.

Okay, enough for now. coming up with photos and actual step-by-step instructions. Get your beans ready!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Thanks for doing this! great start... I already know more than I did. :-)

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Let's get started. Think of the steps in pressure canning as a three stage affair. First you will follow a series of steps from set up until the jars are in the canner and being processed. The second stage is simply the processing time and monitoring required. The third stage is the exact reverse of the first. If you think about that you won't accidentally skip steps at the end.

So first you will start with 3-4lbs of any variety of dried beans that have been rinsed and checked for stones. You will need at least an 8 quart stock pot. The beans should be covered by about 30% their volume with cool water. Soak overnight in a cool spot. Fridge is fine or out the door if it's not freezing. You can also opt to quick soak by bringing beans to a simmer and turning off. Don't lift lid. They will be ready to use 1-2 hours later. Don't leave warm beans longer than a few hours. They can start to ferment.

The first photo shows my suggested tools for the job; A ladle, some type of long handled sieve (in this case a spider), a wide mouth funnel, a jar lifter and a clean, damp paper towel for wiping the jar edges. An oven pad (not shown) is handy for hanging on to those hot jars when tightening down lids. Note the rimmed griddle. A rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan works too. Very important for containing spillage or water dripping off of jars and makes clean up a snap. The canner is to the left and has the bottom rack and recommended water level along with seven clean jars, filled half way, with water. With the canner closed, but not locked down, bring the water to a simmer on high and reduce burner to hold temperature. The beans are on the right and are also brought to a simmer on high and held at that temperature.

The second photo shows the beans, in this case red beans, strained from their soaking liquid and loaded into the jars already containing simmering water. Note the level. Beans at this level, with the jars half filled with water will absorb all or almost all of the water. If you want the beans to be loose in their liquid use the lesser recommended weight.

The third photo is a short cut. During set up, I place the lids and rings in a lingerie bag. Instead of using a separate pan to heat them, I toss the lingerie bag into the hot (but not boiling) canner water while the jars are being packed. After packing, the jar edges get wiped down with the damp paper towel and out come the hot lids and rings. The lingerie bag has ties that can hook onto the canner handle. No extra pan to clean up and no third burner required. To be continued in next post...

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Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

At this point you should know your accurate pressure requirements based on your altitude. There is a chart in the Blue Book and on the NIHFP site. When in doubt, Google your local altitude. For instance, I used to use 10lbs pressure when I lived on the other, lower side of Atlanta but need 11lbs on the higher north side. Photo #4 and time to load the canner. I used both wide and narrow mouth quarts because they were on hand but, especially if you are going for more beans and less liquid, wide mouth jars makes it easier to extract the goods. Once the canner is loaded, clamp her down and get a timer ready for ten minutes. Increase the burner heat moderately until you see a steady stream of steam exiting the vent. It does not need to be heavy but it should be steady. As soon as you see steam, start the 10 minute timer. The steam is evacuating air from the canner and the heating process is underway. Once the 10 minute time is completed, place the pressure regulator or counter weight on the vent. Turn the heat to high. Immediately reset your timer, 90 minutes for quarts of beans or 75 minutes for pints, while carefully observing the rising gauge. Make sure you can steady the heat by the time you are within 1lb of the desired pressure. Electric stoves take a little practice because when you turn them down they actually temporarily shut off until their thermostats tell them to kick back on. Meanwhile, you can start losing pressure fast. Conversely, if you don't slow it down soon enough the pressure can continue to go up rapidly. If you find yourself with this runaway situation try gently edging the canner slightly off the burner until things come under control. Once you reach the correct pressure begin the timing. If you have a safety-type counterweight as opposed to a weighted gauge you will have to keep a careful eye on the canner during the process. The safety-type can potentially allow the pressure to rise to an undesired number and will not regulate. A weighted gauge keeps the pressure stable. The dial gauge should agree with your weighted gauge if you have a weighted gauge. Now it's just a matter of hurry up and wait (or weight). Good time to sit nearby and catch up on reading or chat with us. :)

Once your timer goes off, turn off the heat but leave the canner in place. You are now going to reverse the first stage. The canner pressure will decrease as it cools. This process takes between thirty to fifty minutes depending on the canner and the amount of contents within. Don't go off completely because jars will continue to cook. When the pressure returns to 0 reset your timer once again for 10 minutes. Remove the weighted gauge or counterweight and start the timer. Steam will escape as part of the pressure reduction and cool down process. In your excitement, it's easy to skip this important step. Failure to do this may result in faulty seals. Once the ten minutes are up, open the canner, turning the lid away from you to avoid steam burns. I leave the jars in a few more minutes to cool the space down. Then, using the jar lifter and raising the jar enough to stabilize it with the oven pad below, place back on to a rimmed pan as in photo #5.

The final step is cleaning and labeling your jars. After the jars are cooled down place them in the sink and wet the tops to loosen the starch that evacuated with the steam in the jars. Don't try to remove the rings or you might break the seal. Let the jars sit wet for a few minutes and then uncap the rings into a bowl of soapy water. I use a brush and scrub the jars, top to bottom, and especially around the screw threads. Be meticulous here or you might find mold growing on your canned goods come summer. Label with contents and date on top. I stopped using paper labels because the gum was a pain to remove plus, since I case a lot of my canned goods I only see the top. Sharpies work for me.

In the last pic. #6, finished jars are drying off. I decided to do a second load of pints with Harry's Black Jungle beans from our summer garden. Once you get the hang of beans, and committed time to the canning project, it can be worthwhile to continue with a second batch. Everything is already out. I often dump the first batch of bean juice and quick soak a second batch. While the beans have been heated and are soaking, the first batch is in progress. By the time the first batch is done the second set of jars and beans can be heating. Just make sure you re-level the water back up inside the canner. Have fun!

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Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Fantastic! Thank you, thank you. I like using dried beans so much better than the commercial canned ones, but I don't always have the time to soak and cook the dried beans. Home-canned beans sound like the perfect answer.

Do you ever add seasonings when you can your beans? I'm thinking about pre-seasoned chili beans (I like dark kidney beans and little red beans together, or pinto and black beans), lima beans in ham stock, or pinto beans with adobo seasoning, black beans flavored with garlic & peppers for summer salads... combinations like that would be great for quick meals... I love beans, but I love them more when they have cooked long enough to absorb some extra flavors.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Our preference for starting dishes with dry beans was why I was committed to learning how to can them well. That and the fact that we eat lots of beans. I found myself deferring bean dinners because it was too late in the day to start.

Home canned beans have a different flavor than commercial ones. Is it glass vs. metal? The process? Who knows? Yes, you can season away to your preferences. I have but don't since I'm reluctant to commit my beans to a certain future. I get that you might want built in flavor. I know you are an experienced canner but am glad you found useful information. Let me know when you try it out. Your experience and suggestions are welcome.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

As many things as I've canned, it's never even occurred to me to soak dry beans and can them. I figured if I ever planted a bunch of "shelly beans" or limas, I'd can them fresh, but it's sure easier to start with a big bag of pintos from the store! Next time I go to Winston-Salem to visit my in-laws, I'm visiting a certain little country store and going nuts with the bulk bins they have... such pretty beans!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

If you're out and about near Mt. Ranier, Glut Food Co-op has good bulk bean prices.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Laurel,
Exactly what I was looking for! Thank you, so much, for the thorough pictorial.

Ditto Critterologist about the pre-seasoned beans. My goal is to reach for a jar of MY beans instead of a can of Louisiana Blue Runner Red Beans! They are creamy red kidney beans, partially cooked in the canning processed. We add proportionate cans of water, seasonings, and seasoning meat, then cook it fully.

Ideally, I'd like to reach for a jar of seasoned, fully cooked Red Kidney (or other type) beans.

To achieve this, should I cook my beans (with seasonings) to maybe 2/3 done-ness, then, continue with your canning process to get them fully cooked without becoming mushy?

Thanks, again for the pictorial!

I'm all ready!

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Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Do not cook any more than I have indicated. Assemble with seasoning in the simmer stage. The beans cook under very high pressure for a long time. Meat canning uses the same timing so small amounts of meat for seasoning, such as for baked-style beans are in keeping with approved recipes. Avoid very fatty meats. Fat escaping with steam can prevent the rubber on the lids from adhering.

One more note...pressure canning in open outdoor space is not recommended since breezes can effect achieving stable temperatures. Correct pressure should be maintained within one pound throughout the process.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

SO is recovering from surgery while I am staying near. Took "down time" (haha) to can beans today. Managed seven quarts of black beans in the first load, then a pint of leftover black beans, three pints of Taylor horticultural beans from the summer garden and six pints of garbonzos. Still have lots more zipper peas, black limas, butterpeas and Christmas beans to go.

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