This is the time of year that canning becomes a nearly daily activity for me. Last week, I saw that the green beans in my garden were nearly ready to pick. That was when I decided I had best get the dried cranberry beans that I had bought earlier canned and put away. In other words, I wanted my other "projects" completed before the busy green bean cycle began. And began it did! I have already picked my three rows of pole beans twice in the last three days, canning seven quarts and freezing another two, all the while cooking up a large stockpot of fresh beans for the week.
If you have never canned dried beans (pinto, black, navy, cannellini, etc.) before, keep reading as I "walk" you through the process of putting up the cranberry beans.
Years ago, I began using a "jiggler" pressure regulator with my Presto pressure canner. The pressure gauge can go "off" at times, and I didn't want to spend the money to send it to Presto - we don't have anyone close who will test the gauges anymore. What I like about this type of regulator is that I don't have to keep my eyes on the canner constantly to make sure that the pressure isn't building up too much. I can tell by listening - you sort of get the feel for it after time. I DO stay in the kitchen while using the canner, however.
Please refer to your canner's user manual before pressure canning for the first time.
The first step to canning dried beans is to soak them for at least 12 hours and then cook for 30 minutes. Make sure that you sort the beans, taking out any stones or bad beans, and rinse well. Cover the beans with plenty of water, as they will really swell in size. Rinse after soaking and fill with fresh water, enough to cover the beans, and cook with a gentle boil.
Since I did so many of them, I had two stockpots going.
While the beans are cooking, it's a good time to wash your jars and lids/rings. I wash in pretty hot water, but I don't bother to sterilize the jars. The canning process is so long and the pressure so much, that the jars and food inside get "sterilized" enough. If you are concerned, go ahead and sterilize them first.
Using a funnel, ladle the beans and cooking liquid into your jars, allowing about 1/2 inch at the top. Make sure you get out air bubbles as necessary.
Wipe each jar's rim with a clean wash rag and place a lid with screw band on each. Fill the pressure canner with water as recommended. My canner uses three quarts of water (I add a splash of vinegar to keep my jars cleaner - I have really hard water). Go ahead and place it on high heat.
Put your jars into the canner and put the cover on, being sure that it is "latched" and secure. Reminder: Have you checked the lid as recommended in your instruction booklet? Everything needs to be in good order before using! Exhaust the air once steam blows freely from the valve stem - set the the timer for 10 minutes. The air will be exhausted from the canner and the pressure plugs "popped".
Then, you can put the pressure valve (I use the 15 lb.) on the stem and begin to build pressure.
Once the jiggler is swaying easily back and forth gently and not showing stress (rocking hard), or the pressure gauge shows 15 lbs. pressure, begin timing.
Dried beans take 65 minutes for those who are below 1000 feet below sea level. Since we are a bit over 1000 feet, I have to add 10 minutes, making total canning time 75 minutes.
If the pressure wants to go over the 15 lbs., lower the heat a little at a time in order to maintain pressure. If it goes below 15 lbs., you will have to start timing all over again, so keep an eye on it. Also, you don't want it to get so high that the lid blows. This happened to a friend of mine several years ago. She was canning tomatoes and the lid blew off and through the roof. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Glass was everywhere. Again, keep a close eye on the amount of pressure and don't allow it to get too high or under the 15 lbs.
When your timer goes off and the required time is up, turn off the burner and wait for the pressure to return to zero. The pressure plugs will deflate and go down. Wait a few extra minutes to be sure! Open the canner carefully and use a jar lifter to remove the jars. Place on a towel away from any drafts. Allow the lids to seal on their own and don't attempt to force a seal by thumping on them. Let them cool for 24 hours and don't move them before that. Then, test the seals, label, and store away from direct lighting or excess heat. Use up or freeze any that didn't seal.
I ended up with nine canned pints and another two in the freezer.
Canned beans are a great asset in the winter. You don't want to have to resort to canned beans from the store if you can help it. They are not soaked for twelve hours before canning, which improves digestibility. Also, they are usually canned with sodium. You can always add salt if you want it, but having too much already added makes it a pain.