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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!