Tag Archives | pressure canning

How to Pressure Can Dried Beans in Weck Jars + Giveaway

canned beans square

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, canned beans are a staple in my pantry. I try to always keep an assortment of pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and black beans in my kitchen cabinet. Even when I’ve not been shopping in awhile, I nearly always have tortillas in the freezer and some kind of cheese in the fridge. Combined with a can of beans, I’m only a few steps away from a bean and cheese quesadilla lunch (and all the better if there’s a jar of salsa on the shelf).

dry beans in bowls and jars

In recent years, instead of sourcing my stash of canned beans from the store, I’ve been making them myself. That’s because as cheap as canned beans are, dried beans cost even less (I typically get 1/2 liter or pint jars from a single pound of dried beans). And by using my own jars, I avoid the chemicals in can liners and also keep that waste out of the system.

soaking beans at the beginning

If you have a pressure canner, making your own canned beans is incredibly simple (though I’ll grant you that the first time through it will feel like there are a lot of steps but it will get easier). If you don’t have one, this might just be the technique that convinces you to get one. If you’re looking for a good starter pressure canner, I use a 16 quart Presto and love it. It’s affordable and fits easily on to my small stove.

fully soaked beans

As is the case any time you use dried beans, you start by soaking them. If I’m canning on a weekend, I’ll soak the beans overnight so that they’re ready for a morning canning session. During the work week, I’ll set them to soak while I make breakfast and will can them up after dinner. I like to pressure can in the evenings because it means that I can let the canner cool overnight. I’ve found that the longer you let the canner cool undisturbed, the better the jars seal.

soaking beans

When you soak your beans, take care to use a bowl big enough to hold the beans and water to cover by 2-3 inches. As you can see in one of the pictures above, I didn’t use a bowl quite large enough for the white beans and so they soaked up everything I gave them and threatened to spill out of the bowl entirely.

prepped Weck jars

Once the beans are sufficiently soaked, it’s time to start to prep them for the canning process. Like I do in all canning situations, the first thing I do is get the jars and canning pot set up. In this case, I put the rack in the pot, set the jars on top, and fill the jars with hot water from the tap (because the water isn’t coming into contact with food, I don’t worry about using hot water).

Unlike with boiling water bath canning where you need a full pot, pressure canning works with steam so the jars don’t need to be submerged. An inch or two of water in the pot itself is really all you need.

lids and seals

When I use Weck jars, I take care to also tuck the glass lids and rubber rings into the pot to heat (leave the clips out). When I use conventional mason jars, I tuck new lids into the pot, but keep the rings out as they’re hard to work with when hot. Settle the lid on the pot and bring the pot to a boil. No need to lock the lid into place yet, you’re just warming the jars.

simmering beans

While the canner heats, pour the beans and their soaking water into a pot and bring them to a boil. You may need to add some additional water as they still should be covered by about 2 inches of water. They need approximately 25-30 minutes on the stove in order to heat through and begin to soften.

Take note that the beans should not be cooked fully when they go into the jars. If you cooked them fully before pressure canning, your finished product would be total mush.

filled Weck jars

When the jars are hot and the beans have simmered for about half an hour, it’s time to fill the jars. Remove the jars from the canner and place them on a kitchen towel. If you’ve boiled out most of your water from the bottom of the pot, pour the contents of the jars back into the canner. If your water level looks good, dump the water from the jars out into the sink.

Fill the jars with the prepared beans. You want to add enough beans so that they come up about 2/3 of the way up the jar. Then cover the beans with cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace.

Ideally, you’ll have about an inch of water above the bean level. Don’t skimp on the water because the beans are going to continue to cook in the jars and so will need additional liquid in order to soften fully.

three clips for pressure canning

Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a clean towel. Settle the rubber seal onto the lid of the Weck jar and place the seal and lid onto the jar. Secure the lid with three Weck jar clips. When canning Weck jars in a boiling water bath you only use two clips, but the increased intensity of the pressure canner means that you need an additional clip to ensure that the lid stays in place. If you’re using conventional mason jars, apply lids and rings in the usual fashion.

To avoid chipping the lid with the clips, place the clip on the lid first and then push down towards the side of the jar. If you start from the side of jar and push towards the lid, you risk breakage.

jars in the canner

Once the lids are secured, lower the jars into the canner. My 16 quart canner can hold five 1/2 liter Weck jars, seven quart jars, or nine pint jars. Pour a glug of white vinegar into the pot to help keep the jars and pot clean and then lock the lid into place.

Bring the pot up to a boil and let the steam vent for at least 15 minutes. You do this by running the pot without the pressure regulator in place. That’s the little black and metal hat that sits atop the vent shaft. The reason for this is that a canner that has been properly relieved of its oxygen through venting can reach a higher temperature than one that is full of oxygen. The higher the temperature, the more effectively the canner will kill any botulism spores present.

11 pounds of pressure

Once the canner is properly vented, apply the pressure regulator and bring up to pressure. If you live at 1,000 feet elevation or below (as I do), you bring the pot up to 11 pounds of pressure. If you live at higher elevations, you need to increase your pressure (find those exact elevation adjustments here)

pressure canner working

Once the canner reaches the appropriate pressure, start your timer. If you’re working with pint or 1/2 liter jars, you process the beans for 75 minutes. If you use quart or liter jars, process for 90 minutes. Make sure to check the pressure gauge often to ensure that you’re at the proper pressure levels. If your pressure drops below the required level, you have to bring the pot back up to pressure and restart your timer.

close up black beans

Once the time is up, turn the heat off and leave the pot alone. I like to let it cool for at least an hour after the pot depressurizes, but the longer you can let it cool, the better. Even after the pot depressurizes, there is still a huge amount of heat in the jars. It’s perfectly normal for the contents of the jars to be bubbling hours after the canning process has finished.

slipping seal on Weck jar

Weck jars work really well for pressure canning, but there are a couple tricks to it. I’ve already mentioned the first, using three clips instead of two. The second is that you really must ensure that the seal is in its ideal position before you settle the lid on the jar. As you can see, my seal slipped a little with this jar. It wasn’t enough to compromise the seal, but I knew that this rubber ring wasn’t as perfectly positioned as the rest when that jar went into the canner. I got lucky and didn’t ruin the seal, but that won’t always be the case.

pressure canned black beans

Now, for the giveaway portion of this post, which is sponsored by Mighty Nest (they also provided the Weck jars you’ve seen pictured throughout this post). They are offering one lucky Food in Jars reader a chance to win one dozen 1/2 Liter Weck jars (I like these jars for canning beans because hold about the same volume of beans that you get from a store bought can) and a 6 quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven. To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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How to Can Turkey Stock (or, How To Make The Most of Your Holiday Meals)

turkey stock labels

Last Saturday, my family gathered for a belated Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Angie’s house. It was one of those really fantastic family gatherings where everyone was genuinely happy to be there and spend time with one another. Ages ranged from four to 96 and there was much discussion about family history and connection (at one point, a family tree had to be drawn to explain to my cousin Sam’s girlfriend just exactly how we were all related).

Scott and I were the last to leave, having stuck around to gather abandoned plates and help put away the leftovers. When we finally headed home, we did so with a gallon ziplock bag of cut fruit (remains from a massive Costco tray), a dozen empty jars (returns from previous homemade gifts), and a disposable roasting pan holding two turkey carcasses, swaddled in a black plastic garbage bag. My cousins, knowing my fondness for making use of every scrap, had saved it just for me.

bagged turkey for stock

When we got home, instead of crashing out in front of a movie as had been previously planned, I headed to the kitchen to break down all the turkey into usable parts. In the end, I had three very large plastic bags of goodness. Two held bones for stock and one held usable meat (half went into a batch of turkey shepherd’s pie, the other half is frozen for a future batch of soup).

As I separated out the meat from the bones, I started thinking about all the times I’ve pressure canned various stocks and broths over the last four years and realized that it had been far too long since I talked about the magic of pressure canning here. The only stock canning post went up in the very early days of this site and I’ve learned a great deal about the dos and don’t of preserving under pressure since then.

cooking stock

The next morning, I started the first batch of stock (there was more than enough for two batches). When making turkey stock, I like to keep it simple and so don’t add carrots, celery, or onion. Instead, I combine the turkey bones with freshly filtered cold water in a 12 quart stock pot. I put it on the stove and slowly bring it up to a simmer. Once it’s near a boil but not rolling, I cock the lid so that some steam can escape and cook it over medium heat for 4 to 6 hours (I’m after maximum flavor extraction for minimal effort). Whenever you make stock, try to avoid a vigorous boil, as it will make your stock cloudy.

You really want to make sure that you make your stock within a day or two of the turkey’s roasting, as you’ll get the best flavor. If you wait until the carcass has been picked clean during the leftover stage, it takes on a funky, old poultry flavor that really isn’t worth preserving.

pouring stock

Now, in an ideal world, here’s how I’d preserve stock. I’d cook it one day, strain it, chill it overnight, skim the fat, bring it back to a boil and then can. However, I rarely manage to do it that way because I have a very small refrigerator and so almost never have the space for the volume of stock I’ve made. I also don’t have any outdoor space, and so can’t even use nature’s icebox this time of year. And so, instead I make and can my stock in the same day.

Because I can’t remove the fat through chilling, I spend some time carefully spooning it off. There are a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea to defat your stock. One is that if the stock siphons out of the jars during the processing (and it happens a lot during pressure canning, thanks to the increased ferocity of heat and pressure), the slippery fat can put your seal in jeopardy. The other is that fats can go rancid during storage and that will give your stock an off-flavor. Because I know that my stock still has some residual fat, I make a point of using it promptly (to me, this means within 6 to 9 months) so that it doesn’t have a chance to develop a funky flavor.

prepped jar

While I’m painstakingly defatting my stock, I set up my pressure canner. I use a 16 quart Presto canner with a dial gauge that I like a great deal. It holds seven quarts or nine pints, fits on my comically small stove, and doesn’t take up TOO much storage space. I fill it with about three inches of warm tap water, set the jars in it and fill them with just enough warm water to prevent them from floating. I also pour about half a cup of white distilled vinegar into the water in the canning pot, to ensure that the jars don’t get covered in scum during processing. I drop the lids in alongside the jars and bring the whole mess to a simmer to warm things up.

Once the jars are hot and the stock is skimmed and just off a boil, fill ‘em up. You want to leave a generous inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and twist on the rings. Forget everything you know about applying canning jar rings and really twist them on tightly. The intensity of the canner has a habit of loosening them some during processing, so you want to compensate for that. Don’t worry, the oxygen in the jars will still be able to exit during the pressure canning process.

pouring stock into jars

Once all the jars are filled and are in the canner, lock the lid into place. Bring the pot up to a boil and let the steam vent for at least 10 minutes. You do this by running the pot without the pressure regulator in place. That’s the little black and metal hat that sits atop the vent shaft. The reason for this is that a canner that has been properly relieved of its oxygen through venting can reach a higher temperature than one that is full of good old O2. The higher the temperature, the more effectively the canner will kill any botulism spores present.

After you feel like the pot has been sufficiently vented, apply the pressure regulator and bring the pot up to pressure. Once it hits the correct pressure, adjust the heat so that you stay at that pressure. This can be a little tricky if you have a pokey electric stove like mine, because it certainly isn’t impossible. It just takes a little extra attention and learning how your stove adjusts. If your canner drops below the required pressure level at any point during the timed process, you have to start the time over again as soon as it comes back to the correct level.

full jars in canner

Stock of any stripe gets pressure canned at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts) in a gauged canner and at 10 pounds in a weighted canner. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has all the details and they can be found here. And remember, if you live at higher elevations, make sure to adjust your pressure accordingly.

Once the time is up, you turn off the stove and leave the canner alone. If your burner stays hot for a long time, you can slide it to a cooler spot on the stove, but other than that, just let it sit. I like to give my canner two or three hours to cool before I even attempt to open it (it will take at least half an hour for the pressure drop enough for the canner to unlock). Often I will let it cool overnight, to ensure that the jars can cool and seal on their own time. When the jars are finally cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot, twist off the rings and give everything a good wash with warm, soapy water. Dry the jars and store them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.

canner gauge

The last time I had my pressure canner checked, it ran true, which means that I don’t have to make any adjustments to my pressure during processing. Sometimes a gauge registers a higher or lower pressure when it’s actually at 10 or 11 pounds and so you have to do adjust your pressure point. That’s why it’s important to have your gauge checked yearly to ensure that you’re preserving safely.

Now, the reason the subtitle of this post is that while I’m talking about turkey stock in this post, this technique is one that can be used for all manner of flavorful stocks and broths. This time of year, we all tend to invest a bit more money in hams, big beef roasts, turkeys, and mountains of vegetables. There are always scraps and trimmings to be gleaned from these holiday meals that can be cooked down into gorgeous, rich liquids. Save that ham bone or the bone from that celebratory steak. If you don’t have the time for stock making now, stash those goodies in the freezer and make a project of it after the holidays are over. You’ll be happy you did.

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Canning 101: What to do When a Jar Breaks in the Canner

broken jar

At 11 p.m. last night, I was in my kitchen doggedly trying to complete the canning project I’d started hours before. I’d made stock from a turkey carcass a friend had given me (knowing that I didn’t get a chance to roast a bird, this friend froze his remains for me after all the meat was picked away. I know such good people) and was nearing the end of the process. The stock was strained, defatted, funneled into jars and in the pressure canner when tragedy struck. A jar broke.

I had just put the lid on the pressure canner and was venting it before beginning to raise the pressure when I heard a quiet snap. Though it doesn’t happen to me often, the sound that a jar makes as it cracks is etched into my kitchen existence and I recognized it immediately.

After a few choice expletives (my grandma Bunny called it “work language” and would have certainly approved its use in this circumstance), I pulled the lid off the pot and surveyed the scene. The stock from the broken jar was draining out into the canner and there were several chunks of floating glass. I pulled the good jars and set them on a cutting board (wood is always better in this situation than cold countertops made from granite, marble, steel or even formica). Using tongs, I fished the broken pieces out of the pot. Lifting the pot off the stove, I poured its contents into the sink, rinsed the pot and replaced the necessary water with the hottest my tap could produce.

The pot went back on the stove over the highest heat possible with the lid on. My goal was to raise the temperature of the water back to near-boiling level as quickly as possible, so that my hot jars of stock didn’t have a chance to cool down too much before I was able to put them back in the pot. However, I didn’t want to put them back in before the water had a chance to heat a bit more, since I know that my hot tap water tends to be around 180 degrees and those jars were hovering right around the boiling point. The last thing I wanted to deal with was more broken jars.

When the water was nearly at a boil, I returned the five remaining quarts of stock to the pot and began the process of venting, pressurizing and then monitoring the pressure. It was after 12:30 a.m. when the processing time was up. I was grateful to be able to simply leave the canner to depressurize and cool on its own and headed to bed.

There are important things to be learned from this experience. Here’s what I think the key points are:

  • It’s vital to stay around your stove when canning, particularly in the beginning of the process. Had I strayed a few feet further from the canner, I might not have heard the crack of the jar and wouldn’t have known there was an issue until much later. This is particularly important when pressure canning, because a broken jar can turn into a projectile in the hot, volatile environment of the pot and damage the remaining jars. It also leaked all the stock out into the pot, which drastically changed my carefully controlled liquid level and could have caused issues during processing.
  • Don’t freak out when a jar breaks. Take a moment and a deep breath. You’re already dealing with boiling water and broken glass, don’t add frenzied behavior to the mix.
  • Use your head. Plot out how you’re going to tackle the mess before you start moving pots. You don’t want to be left holding a pot of heavy, boiling water without knowing where it’s going to land.
  • Get the broken glass out of the pot as soon as it is practical. This is particularly key when it comes to pressure canning, but it’s always a good idea. You run an increased risk of more broken jars if you leave it in there to bang around and it may also break into smaller shards. That turns clean-up into even more of a chore. However, if you’re doing a standard boiling water bath and it’s nearly done, you can let it go to completion and deal with the clean-up once the other jars are finished.
  • If you have to temporarily remove full jars from the pot before processing is finished, remember to take care with them. Protect them from heat shock by placing them on a wooden cutting board or towel-lined countertop. If your process was curtailed half way through, know that you’ll have to start your timer from the beginning when you return the jars to the canner.
  • Always look closely at your jars before starting a canning project. In this case, I was using older jars that had already taken a couple of trips through the pressure canner in their life with me. That jar’s lifespan was probably just nearing its end.

Now that you’ve heard my tale of woe, let’s hear your stories of canning misfortune. Have you had a jar break? How did you handle it?

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How to Can Cubed Pumpkin

the neck pumpkin

About a month ago, I crushed the hopes and dreams of many a preserver, when I wrote about the reasons why pumpkin butter can’t be safely canned at home. In fact, the USDA says that because of its density, any pureed pumpkin product should not be canned. You can’t even pressure can the puree (don’t ask me how the commercial guys do it, because I’m not privy to their techniques. I do assume that there’s a great deal more heat and pressure involved than can be generated in a home kitchen).

peeling pumpkin

What I didn’t get into in that post is the one way that pumpkin can safely be canned, mostly because I wanted to try it out first before I wrote about it. Yes, you heard me right. Pumpkin is safe for canning if you cut it into one-inch cubes, pack it in water and pressure can the heck out of it.

chopping pumpkin

A couple of weekends ago, I walked the neck pumpkin that has been sitting in my living room since Labor Day Weekend into the kitchen and proceeded to peel, slice and cube. It took me the better part of an hour to break that sucker down (it weighted at least ten pounds).

cubed pumpkin

Following the directions in So Easy to Preserve, I simmered my one-inch cubes in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, filled my jars with the softened pumpkin and topped them off with the cooking liquid, taking care to leave the necessary one-inch of headspace on all the jars (I got nine pints from that pumpkin, with a bit leftover for eating mashed with butter and cinnamon).

simmering the pumpkin

The jars of pumpkin took a 55 minute trip through the pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure (note: Thanks to my ancient stove with it’s five heat settings, I have a very hard time keeping my pressure canner at exactly the correct pressure and so always overshoot it a little bit. I was able to get it rest on 13 pounds for the duration of the canning and was plenty happy to be able to maintain a pressure so close to the desired pressure).

measuring headspace

When the time was up, I turned off the heat and let the canner rest overnight so that the pressure could come down gently and naturally. The next morning, I had nine perfectly sealed pints of tender neck pumpkin. I’ve yet to open a jar, but I’m sure I’ll find a few good ways to use these guys up.

However, I must confess that I don’t think that this technique is going on my regular roster of yearly canning activities. I say this because pumpkin (and most other hard skinned, winter squash) are naturally designed for storage. They can keep for months just has they are and don’t need the investment of energy and canning resources to be preserved for the winter. As I mentioned up above, I’ve had this pumpkin for more than two months. And until I used my trusty vegetable peeler to strip its skin away, it was in perfect, healthy shape and I believe that I could have left it there for at least another month or two before it was necessary to cook it.

That is not to say that I don’t see the virtue in having squash that is ready to use (because have no doubt, after 55 minutes in a pressure canner, this squash is cooked), I’m just not sure that it’s the best use of canning time for me. However, if this is something you regularly do, I’d love to hear the ways in which you use your pressure canned pumpkin cubes.

I have not written out the specific instructions for doing this at home (it’s late and I’m tired). However, the National Center for Home Food Preservation has a handy one-pager that details everything you need to know. Find it here.

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Pressure Canned Ham Stock

ham hocks

This year, for my 30th birthday, my fiancé gave me a pressure canner. Some might look at this gift as decidedly unromantic, but it was actually exactly what I wanted. In fact, I started telling him it was what I wanted sometime back in February, more than three months ahead of time, just in case he got it into his head to get me jewelry or some other impractical bauble.

However, since my birthday back in May, the only thing the canner (a 16-quart aluminum Presto) has been doing is look pretty while sitting quietly under one of my dining room chairs. You see, while I understood the basics of pressure canning intellectually, the reality of it still scared me a bit. So I let the canner sit, satisfying my canning needs by making batch after batch of preserves and pickles, that needed nothing more than a good, hot water bath to set to shelf stable rights.

beginning of stock

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Joy Manning and Tara Matazara Desmond, co-authors of the cookbook Almost Meatless invited me to participate in their blog potluck (Joy is blogging about all the potluck dishes over at her blog What I Weigh Today if you want to check out some of the other recipes). As we talked back and forth about which recipe of theirs I’d tackle, it became clear that this blog and I were best suited to try out a stock recipe, as stock is cannable. In a pressure canner. It was finally time to conquer my pressure canner nerves once and for all.

I decided to make the recipe for Ham Stock that’s found on page 136 of the book. While it’s not a main event on its own, it’s an incredibly useful cooking cast member to have on hand, as it gives you the ability to boost the flavor of many a meal while still keeping them light on meat. Not having the remnants of a ham laying around, I got my hands on a couple of nice, meaty ham hocks with which to make the stock.

one jar in pressure canner

As soon as I fired up the stock pot, a wonderfully smoky/porky scent began to fill the apartment. Scott and I sat around, enjoying the aroma and becoming increasing hungry as the broth bubbled away. After it had cooked for two hours, I fished the hocks out of the pot with a pair of tongs, removed the meat to a plate and returned the bones to the pot for another hour+ of simmer for “maximum gelatin extraction” (a tip offered by Tara that isn’t included in the book).

By the time the stock was done, it was late Sunday evening (and I’d had a stomach ache all day, I’m a trouper I tells ya!). Had I had a spare bit of room in my fridge, I would have put the stock away for the night and returned to pressure can another day (this is actually the recommended technique, as it allows you to completely defat the stock prior to canning). However, being me, my fridge was full to bursting and so I needed to push on. I strained the stock through several layers of cheesecloth to get out the finest of particulate matter and returned it to the pot in order to bring to a boil.

filling jars

While all this stock processing was going on, my quart jars were in the pressure canner heating up. Once the stock had return to a boil, I began the process of removing a jar, filling it, wiping the rim, applying the lid/ring and returning it to the pot. Instead of creating an assembly line, I processed each jar one at a time, in order to keep the jars and stock as hot as possible (part of pressure canning best practices). I’d been told by Doris of Doris and Jilly Cook that it’s important to really get those rings on there tight when pressure canning stock, as otherwise your stock will “siphon” (the official canning word for when the liquid in your jars bubbles out from underneath the lid), so before I returned each filled jar to the pot, I used a dish towel to hold it in place as I muscled the ring into place.

Once all the jars were full, I locked the pressure canner lid into place and began the process of venting the air out of the canner. After ten minutes of venting, I popped the weight onto the vent stem and watched as the pressure began to rise. Quarts of stock need to process for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure (that is, if you have a gauged canner like mine. If you have a weighted canner, you process at 10 pounds of pressure).

I only have six heat options on my stove (and that includes ‘off’) so I was never able to get the canner at exactly 11 pounds, it hovered around 13 pounds for most of the canning session. However, I knew from what I’ve read that it’s okay for the pressure to be a bit over (it can lead to overcooking, which isn’t a concern with stock, but could be a problem if you were working with fruits or veggies), as long as the pressure doesn’t drop below 11 pounds during the 25 minute processing time.

filled jars

I’ve never been so delighted as I was when the timer beeped to announce that the 25 minutes were up. I danced to the kitchen to turn off the stove and wait until the pressure had dropped enough for me to remove the lid. Nearly every jar pinged  the moment I lifted it out of the water, and I’ve never had lids that have so vigorously sealed. Those things are seriously concave.

canner at pressure

So now I have seven quarts of homemade, shelf stable stock (in my insanity, I also made a batch of chicken stock – from chicken feet! – the same day I made the ham stock. In for a penny…) in my pantry. I’m particularly in love with the ham stock though, and am already dreaming of making a big pot of rice with it that I will then turn into a vege-ful fried rice. Such flavor!

The Ham Stock recipe from Almost Meatless can be found after the jump and is reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors. Make it!

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