For me, one of the keys to cooking real food is to have a pantry stocked with real food ‘building blocks’ that I have prepared ahead of time.
I always have a supply of homemade broth/stock, home-canned tomato sauce, applesauce, pickles, and multiple other items. It makes it easy to put together a real-food meal without spending 6 hours in the kitchen each and every day.
I love cooking with dried beans (black beans, red beans, pinto beans, navy beans, you get the picture…), but they can take a lot of time to prepare. If you are starting from scratch, expect to soak them overnight, and then cook them for several hours.
It’s not a complicated process, but it definitely makes deciding to have refried beans for supper at the last minute pretty much impossible.
To combat this problem, I like to make big batches of beans at once.
To preserve my beans, I prefer canning over freezing. Here’s why:
1. My freezer space is limited, and I’d rather use it to store things like meat.
2. I seriously struggle with remembering to take things out of the freezer so they have time to defrost. And a frozen jar of beans takes for.ev.er to thaw out…
3. In the event of a power outage, my canned beans are ready-to-go at a moment’s notice. Even if my freezer was without power and the food in it spoiled, my canned items would be ok.
Now this is very important if you are planning on canning beans:
**You MUST use a pressure canner to can beans– a water bath canner WILL NOT cut it. Any time you are preserving low-acid foods (like beans), a pressure canner is required.**
You can check out my 3-part How to Use a Pressure Canner series here. It’s really not as intimidating as you think– promise!
Got your bag of beans ready? Let’s do this!
How to Pressure Can Beans
- Dried beans (kidney, black beans, pinto, navy, etc) **see my note below regarding amounts
- Quart or pint sized mason jars with lids/rings
- A pressure canner
Pick through your beans to remove any foreign objects, then place them in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. Allow them to soak overnight.
(You can add 2 Tablespoons whey, vinegar, or lemon juice to your soaking water if you wish. Some folks report that it makes them easier to digest- although I haven’t noticed a whole lot of difference. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to try.)
The next morning, drain and rinse the beans. Place in a large pot and cover them by about 2 inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil. (Stir frequently and watch carefully– those beans LOVE to boil over!)
Ladle the hot beans into hot jars (no need to sterilize them, but they should be clean and hot), leaving 1″ headspace. Fill with the cooking liquid, again, leaving 1″ headspace. Put lids and rings on the jars.
The Ball Blue Book recommends boiling the beans for 30 minutes before placing into jars. However, this makes the beans a little on the mushy side. Many folks (including myself) have had good luck with simply soaking the beans overnight, rinsing, and then placing them straight into the jars. Fill the jars with boiling water (leaving 1″ headspace) and then proceed with the canning. This eliminates the hassle of boiling and results in slightly firmer beans.
Place them in a pressure canner and process at 10 pounds* pressure:
- Pints for 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Quarts for 1 hour, 30 minutes
(*You will need to adjust your pressure depending on your altitude. I have to process at 15 pounds pressure since we are at 6,500 feet. My pressure canning tutorial has more info.)
Remove from canner and let cool, checking all lids for proper seals before storing.
- Bean Amounts: My Ball Blue Book calls for about 3/4 pound of dried beans per quart jar. For my last batch, I used 11 pounds of dried red beans and that filled about 9 quart jars (give or take a little). If you end up with extra, you can always freeze them, or eat them for supper that night.
- After you boil the beans and are ready to put them in jars, they won’t be fully softened. The pressure canner will do the rest of the cooking, so don’t panic.
- Some tutorials do a “quick soak” method which instructs you to bring the dry beans to a boil, let them stand for one hour, and then proceed with canning. I suppose you can do this if you like, but I prefer the overnight soak. It makes sense to me that that would make them slightly easier to digest, but that’s just my uneducated opinion.
- If you like, you can add some salt to each jar (1/2 teaspoon for pints, 1 teaspoon for quarts). This is purely for added flavor- it plays no part in the preservation process. I usually leave mine unsalted and season accordingly when I’m ready to use them.
So what do you do with all those canned beans?
Lots of stuff! Make up a batch of my famous refried beans, add them to burrito filling, make my venison chili recipe, add to soups, or season and eat as-is. The sky is the limit when it comes to the bean.
Other Canning Goodies:
- How to Can Stock or Broth
- 6 Tips for No-Stress Canning
- How to Can Applesauce (and a detailed water-bath canning tutorial)
- The How to Use a Pressure Canner series