Monday, July 29, 2013

canning and preserving: green beans

On Friday, my mom let us know that my grandparents' garden was bursting, and if we wanted to make the two-hour jaunt, we were welcome to what we could pick. So we headed north to visit my family and spend some time knee-deep in bean plants. We came home with this. (And this isn't all we picked - some of it was distributed elsewhere.)

I've got plans for a lot of these items (and you'll see some of them appear later this week). But as soon as we got home and settled, we got to work on the beans. As you can see, we had a lot of them. We like green beans fresh or canned, and aren't big fans of them frozen, so we decided to can quarts. 14 jars this weekend with beans leftover.

We can primarily with recipes adapted from Ball, being the home canning experts and all. We're hyper paranoid about canning safety. We will use recipes that we find other places, but we always compare the recipes to a similar Ball one to make sure the acidity ratios are similar, as well as processing times. 

For beans, canning safety requires a pressure canner. Beans are a low-acid vegetable, so they have to be done in a pressure canner since they have little natural acid that protects against the growth of bacteria, particularly botulism (whose spores can't die in a low-acid environment unless the temperature reaches 240 degrees). This is the pressure canner we use, which can hold 7 quarts.

In canning recipes that call for salt, it helps to use pickling/canning salt as well, since it doesn't cloud the water like iodized salt does. The kind our local stores carry is Mrs. Wages, another popular canning supply company.

We started by camping out in front of the TV, snapping the ends off beans and cutting them into bite size pieces.

An hour and 14 pounds of beans later, you have piles of prepped beans, like this.

We use the cold-pack (raw-pack) method for beans. After you wash your jars, lids and bands, you heat them in water that reaches at least 160 degrees. Once they are heated, you pack raw beans in a hot jar.

Once you have the beans packed in, add the salt and ladle boiling water into the jar, leaving the appropriate amount of head space (in this recipe, 1 inch). Head space is the distance between the top of the jar and the liquid. Put the lid and band on the jar, and place it in the pressure canner.

Then do that six more times.

You add white vinegar to the canner (to prevent discoloration of the aluminum and also hard water stains on the jars) as well as three quarts of boiling water. Follow the instructions for your particular canner and the recipe to process. Our beans had a processing time of 25 minutes, but it takes more like an hour from start to finish with the processing, since you have to allow the pressure to build and then reduce on its own. You know, so the lid doesn't blow off.

And then you have beans. 

We store them with their bands off to prevent rusting. Plus, you can re-use the bands on the next canning project. (Lids cannot be reused, no matter what your grandma says. You might be fine, but you might get botulism if you take the chance. And I don't take chances with killer bacteria.)

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