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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  at least four 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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Weck Jar FAQ and MightyNest Giveaway

plum jam

It used to be that Weck jars were precious things, hard to come by outside of Germany. Then people started discovering how pretty and useful they are. Suddenly, stores from Crate & Barrel to Williams-Sonoma and beyond began stocking them.

No explanation is needed when it comes to storing dry goods in Weck jars, but when it comes to the actual act of canning in them, newcomers sometimes need a little help. A couple years ago, I wrote a step-by-step guide to using Weck jars, and while I have no intention of reinventing that particular wheel today, I do want to pluck out a few of the most commonly asked questions about canning in Weck jars and highlight them here so that they’re easy to access.

mixed plums

How do you tell if Weck jars are sealed? You can tell that Weck jars are sealed because the little tab on the rubber seal will point downwards. You can also test your seal in much the same way that you do with Ball jars. Once the jars are cool, remove the clips and grasp the lid of the jar. Lift off the counter an inch or two. If the seal holds fast, you’re golden. If it starts to lose its seal or breaks the suction entirely, that’s a jar that needs to be refrigerated.

Can you reuse the rubber seal? In all printed materials available in the US, they don’t recommend that you use the rubber seal for Weck jars more than once. However, I’ve been told the instructions printed in other countries tell you that it is reusable until it is stretched out or begins to lose its elasticity. Because I don’t like to take chances, I replace the rubber seal with each use.

Can you pressure can in Weck jars? I have not tried it personally, but I was told that it can be done, provided you add a third clip to the lid, in order to help prevent siphoning during processing.

Is it possible to buy replacement clips? It is! You can actually easily buy replacement clips, rubber rings and even lids for Weck jars. MightyNest, sponsor of today’s giveaway sells all the replacement parts in their canning section.

multi-colored plum jam

Because Weck jars are quite a bit more expensive than traditional mason jars, I tend to save them for my favorite preserves. These are the recipes that I like so much that I tend to either keep them all for myself or share them with only those people who are truly deserving.

Plum jam is one of my most beloved preserves, because its flavor reminds me of the rummy jam my mom used to make with the fruit from our backyard trees, in Southern California, when I was very young.

For this jam, I combined 5 cups of chopped plums (a mixture of yellow and red) with 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Once the juices started to run, I cooked the fruit and sugar over high heat until the fruit broke down and the syrup thickened enough to hang off the spatula in little pink windows. A squeeze of lemon juice went in at the end for balance. Processed for ten minutes in an array of Weck jars, this is one preserve I’ll be rationing this winter, to ensure it lasts until plum season returns.

plum jam in Weck Jars

If you’ve been contemplating adding some Weck jars to your kitchen, you’re going to love today’s giveaway. It’s provided by MightyNest, an online shop and community hub designed to help people find a world of products (everything from kitchenware to personal care) that are healthy and non-toxic. Here’s what MightyNest has put together for this giveaway:

20 quart canning pot with a rack designed to hold 7 quarts
6 1-liter asparagus jars
6 1/2 liter tulip jars
6 160ml mold jars
Weck jar lifter (these are great, because they don’t catch on the clips the same way that jar lifters designed for Ball jars can).

MightyNest is also hosting a giveaway of my book over on their blog this week. If you’ve not yet gotten your copy, make sure to click over to enter!

If you’re interested in entering this giveaway, here’s how to do it.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what one change you’d like to make to your kitchenware to make it healthier. If you’re stumped for ideas, head over to MightyNest and browse their many lovely kitchen items. You’ll be chomping at the bit for something new in no time (I want everything they sell).
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, August 24. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, August 25, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: MightyNest provided the jars, canner and jar lifter for this giveaway at no cost to me. I have not been compensated for my time or this post. My opinions remain mine entirely. 
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Weck Jar Giveaway

Goodness, you guys are crazy for Weck jars! I had feeling this would be a popular giveaway, but I had no idea that it would be a Food in Jars record breaker. An impressive 670 of you signed up for a chance to win a six-pack of jars from Kaufmann Mercantile. As is my way, I turned to random.org for help choosing a winner. After a moment of consideration, it spit out #606, which is the comment left by Atarah. Congratulations, you lucky canner!

So many thanks to all of you for playing!

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Canning 101: How to Can Using Weck Jars + Giveaway

weck jar laid out

Recently, after panting after them for years, I finally broke down and ordered a dozen Weck jars*. For those of you not in the know, they are a brand of canning jar that is produced in Germany and is quite popular across Europe. Instead of using a disposable lid with the sealing compound embedded in it (like our familiar Ball and Kerr jars), these jars depend on a rubber ring for their sealing power.

They are much like the bailing wire canning jars that were once quite popular across this country (I wrote about canning in those jars here, if you care to give a gander). One of their primary benefits is the fact that because the lid is made from glass, the only thing that’s in contact with your food is glass (just like the Tattler reusable lids, there’s no BPA-imbued surface to worry about when you use these suckers). They also feel a bit less wasteful than the Ball/Kerr jars, because the only piece you end up throwing away is the rubber ring, not an entire lid. The primary downside of Weck jars is that they are expensive. I have hopes that if enough people start buying them, they’ll become more accessible and affordable here.

weck rubber ring

The Weck jars are made up of four components. The first is the rubber ring, which is the analog to the sealing compound in American lids. And just like our lids, these rings need to be submerged in boiling water for a few minutes before use in order to soften up. Keep them in the hot water until the moment you’re ready to use them to maximize their sealing abilities. These rings should also be given a once over before use, to ensure that they don’t have any cracks or tears. Another way these rings are like conventional lids is that they can only be used once.

weck lid and ring

Next comes the flat, glass lid. Prior to use, make sure to give them a careful inspection, to ensure that the lid is free from chips, particularly on the edge that comes in contact with the rubber ring. Even the smallest chip can prevent a quality seal. Keep in mind that if you’re planning on processing something in these jars that will be in the boiling water bath canner for less than ten minutes, these lids need to be sterilized along with your jars.

weck lid and ring on jar

I have found that the best way to assemble these jars is to caress the rubber ring onto the lid and then place the lid on the jar. Before you settle it into place, make sure to wipe those rims. It’s just good canning practice.

weck with lid clamped into place

Now come the clips. All Weck jars come with two stainless steel clips. They do the work that our screw-on bands typically perform, holding the lid in place so that air can escape during processing and cooling, but no air or liquid can get in. I believe the best way to attach a clip is to hook it over the lid and then firmly (but carefully) push down. There should be a satisfying click when the clip is in place and there should be no wiggle or movement. I have found that it often requires just a hair more pressure than feels appropriate. Take it slowly and make sure to hold onto the jar (wrap a towel or pot holder around it so you don’t burn yourself) so that you don’t slosh the product on to your counter.

Once you have the clips in place, quickly check the status of the ring. It should still be flat and even between the top of the jar and the bottom of the lid. On one occasion, I have had the ring wrinkle up while I was finessing the clips onto the jars. Had I not caught it before the jar went into the canner, I could have compromised my potential seal.

testing weck seal

Now that your jars are filled and the rubber rings, lids and clips are in place, it’s time to process. This step is just like all other boiling water bath canning. The only caution I have to offer here is to take care with your jar lifter placement when working with Weck jars. I once nearly tipping several jars over while maneuvering in and out of the pot because my lifter caught on the clips. They hold tightly enough that you shouldn’t be able to dislodge one with the lifter, but it is something to be aware of.

weck jar tab note

Once the jars are finished processing, let them cool fully. Once they are totally cool to the touch, you can remove the clips and check your seals. There are two easy ways to ensure you’ve got a good seal. The first is to grab onto the jar holding onto just the lid and lift the jar just a bit (I will never be a hand model). If it holds, it’s good.

The other way to check the seals is to take a look at the tab. It should be pointing down, like it’s sticking its tongue out at you. Also note that Weck jars should be stored with the clips off when it’s on your pantry shelf. This is for the same reason that we store Ball and Kerr jars without their rings. If something happens to grow inside the jar, the off-gassing will break the seal and you’ll know right away that the product is compromised.

When it comes time to open a Weck jar, it’s incredibly easy. Just grab hold of the tab and gently pull it, until you hear air rushing in and the seal breaks. Do this slowly, so that you don’t run the risk of popping the lid off the jar with too much vigor. While the jar lives in the fridge, you can use the clips to hold the lid in place, or you can invest in some of the snap-on plastic lids that Weck makes as well.

I  made my recent purchase of Weck jars through a really lovely online store called Kaufmann Mercantile. They offer a full array of Weck jars and shipping is free if your order is over $25. Because they’re awesome, they’ll also be giving away a six-pack of Weck’s 1/5L tall mold jar. It’s the same jar that’s been pictured throughout this post (it holds a bit less than a half pint). What’s more, if you sign up for their newsletter, they’ll give you a $7 gift card code that you can apply to the cost of your first order.

You can also order Weck jars directly from the U.S. distributor (they finally have launched an online ordering capability), but the shipping charges vary widely and can get really expensive. Updated: An eagle-eyed canner just did the math and discovered that buying Weck jars through the U.S. distributor has gotten much more affordable than it was when last I checked. Please make sure to compare pricing before placing your order, to ensure that you get the best deal possible.

To sign up for this Kaufmann Mercantile giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what the first thing you’d like to can in Weck would be. One comment per person, please. The comments will close and the giveaway will end on Friday, March 11th at 11:59 p.m.

*Though this is the first time I’ve owned my own Weck jars, I have used them many times before and have even taught classes with them. Rest assured, I know what I’m talking about.

**There was no pay to play in the making of this post. I bought my jars from Kaufmann Mercantile with my hard earned money. They just happen to be awesome folks who want to make the day of one Food in Jars reader a little bit brighter.

 

Canning Jar Safety

DSC_0066

On Monday, I wrote a post about canning in vintage jars. Tara left a comment, asking about the safety of these jars. I briefly responded to her question there, but it’s an important enough question that I wanted to make sure that the query and my answer to it got its moment in the sun.

So here it goes. These jars are not recommended by the USDA. The only home canning method endorsed by the USDA is the one that involves Ball/Kerr/Mason jars and the two-part lids. Thing is, Weck jars aren’t endorsed either and they are widely sold today and are an extremely popular style of canning jar in Europe. These vintage bailing wire jars are the functional equivalent of the Weck jars. That fact leads me to extrapolate that if you treat the vintage jars with the same safety precautions that are recommended for the Weck jars (those safety precautions come from the Weck company, not from the USDA) and check the seal after canning by lifting the jar by the lid, your canned item will be just fine. As an added precaution, I only plan on using these vintage jars to can high sugar items like jams and jellies.

The thing to remember is that the government safety precautions are written for the absolute canning novice. They want to make the canning process as safe and idiot-proof as possible. And they’re right to do so, because people have gotten sick from eating poorly canned/preserved foods. While I wouldn’t recommend that you can in vintage jars during your very first canning session, I do think that it’s a viable option as you explore and want to try other styles of jars.

However, just because I’ve offered instructions on how to do this style of canning, I do not intend to endorse other antiquated styles of food preservation. I’m not going to start sealing jars with paraffin wax (despite my father’s happy memories of licking his grandmother’s jam off of wax discs). But I will continue to can in these bailing wire glass jars, using fresh rubber seals and following safe canning procedures (making sure my jars are clean and undamaged, doing the hot water process and then testing the strength/quality of the seal once the jars are cool by lifting the jar by the lid). I like the way they look, I like how sturdy they are and I like that the only waste produced is the rubber seal. All that said, don’t do it if it makes you uncomfortable.

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Canning in Vintage Jars

DSC_0087

When I first started becoming truly enthralled with canning, I began to look beyond the standard Mason/Ball/Kerr jars available. I discovered the Weck jars that are typically used in Europe, but was put off a bit by the price tag and the fact that they are often hard to actually get (I did break down and order a half dozen from Lehman’s, but with shipping, they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 a jar. That is far too much for the volume of canning I typically do).

DSC_0066

However, when I took a close look at the way in which the Weck jars seal, I realized that they are practically identical to the vintage bailing wire canning jars that were popular in this country through most of the 20th century. The glass lids on the Weck jars seal via a rubber gasket. Through the hot water process, everything is held in place by a couple of metal clips. The glass lids on the vintage jars seal via a rubber gasket.

During canning, the lid is held in place by the metal wire that locks up over the lid. The thing that makes the vintage jars even better than the Weck jars is that you have an easy way to keep the jar closed after you’ve opened it, via the bailing wire. When you use the Weck jars, you have to keep replacing the metal clips (or get a set of their plastic lids).

DSC_0088

So once I figured out that the jars I already had (and had gotten for free when helping a friend of a friend clean out her mother’s basement) would do the exact same job as the spendy ones, I got down to work. I ordered a set of rubber gaskets from Lehman’s for just over three bucks (they’re the only ones who still seem to carry them) and made a canning plan.

I did a mixed berry jam, because I’ve been endeavoring to clean out my freezer, in preparation for the coming onslaught of produce and still had some frozen fruit from last summer. I supplemented my frozen strawberries and raspberries with some fresh (but cheap and decidedly not local) strawberries (I made up for it the following week by hand-picking 13 pounds of local strawberries and making the best jam I’ve ever tasted. That recipe is coming later this week).

DSC_0100

When canning with these jars, most of the steps are the same as with the screw-top jars. You clean your jars, lids and seals well, prepare your jam and fill the jars. Once the jars are filled, you wipe the tops clean and the apply the rubber seals and top with the glass lids (of course, making sure that your vintage jars and lids are without chips, cracks or other damage).

Like when you can with conventional mason jars, you need to leave some space for the air to escape. To do this, you don’t lock the wire down all the way. You close it so that it’s closed, but pointing up, not down (if this doesn’t make sense, just get an old bailing wire jar and start opening and closing it. You’ll soon notice the two closure positions).

Process jars as usual. When time has elapsed, remove the jars from the water, being careful not to tip them (these jars are mostly glass, which means that if you get the jam on the top of the lid, you’ll see it, and if you’re a bit of a perfectionist, the residue that will stick to the lid will vex you). At this point, grab a tea towel and lock the wires into the tightest position with the wire pointed downwards. This presses the rubber gasket more firmly into contact with the rim of the jar and ensures a good seal.

DSC_0104

These jars are in the fully locked, post-process position.

The next day, when the jars are all cool, unlock the bailing wire. The lid should not move in the slightest. Test your seal by picking the jar up by the glass lid (don’t go crazy, just lift an inch or two above the countertop). It should hold fast. If it doesn’t, your seal is no good. If it holds, leave the wire unlocked and store as you would any other sealed jar.

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