Earlier in the week, I promised a post about how to make pressure canned white beans and so here we are. The canning technique is the same as you use for unflavored beans, but by adding a rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper, these beans can either add flavor to a large pot of soup (sausage, kale and white bean, perhaps?) or with just a couple additions, can become the backbone of a simple lunchtime meal.
When I make these beans, I only fill the jars halfway, so that in addition to getting flavorful beans, I also get a concentrated liquid that can become part of the broth of the soup. If you like that idea, you’ll need approximately 2 1/2 pounds of white beans (I used Great Northern beans here, but you can also use navy or cannellini) to make a canner of load of seven quarts. If you want jars that have more beans and less liquid, you’ll need an additional pound or so.
The day before you want to can, pour the beans into a large stock pot and cover them with at least six inches of water (I made a double batch and filled a 12 quart pot). Let them soak overnight. An hour or so before you want to can, drain the beans of the soaking water and then fill the pot up with fresh, filtered water.
Put the pot on the stove and begin bringing it to a boil. At this point, I also fill and heat my tea kettle, so that I ensure that I will have enough hot water to get to the end of the batch.
While the beans come to a boil, prep your pressure canner. I use a 16 quart Presto, which holds seven quart jars. Put clean jars in the canner. Fill them up with water so that they don’t float and put about three inches of water into the pot. Put the lid on, but don’t lock it into place and bring the pot to a boil so that the jars are hot when it’s time to fill them.
As the beans and the canner come to temperature, prepare your flavorings. For these beans, I use a small sprig of fresh rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper (I use a mortar and pestle to roughly crush the peppercorns), a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt, and a big garlic clove for every jar.
Once the beans (as the beans boil, they will produce some foam. Just skim this off and discard) and the canner are boiling, it’s time to start building the jars. Remove one jar from the canner and pour the water it contains out into the skin (you don’t want this water in the canner, because you only need about three inches to safely pressure can). Put the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper into the bottom of the drained jar.
Scoop out a scant two cups of the hot beans. I have found that the best way to do this is to use a slotted spoon to portion the beans into a measuring cup. We’ll go back for the liquid in just a minute.
Funnel the beans into the jar. When I make these beans as a soup starter, I don’t want the jar to be more than half full of beans, because again, I want to capture some bean broth.
Return to your stock pot of beans and dip the measuring cup in for the bean liquid. You’ll need 3 to 3 1/2 cups of liquid for each jar. You want to fill to the base of the neck, so that you have about an inch of headspace. It’s far more than you leave when you’re working with water bath canning, but trust me, all will be well. If you start to run low on bean liquid, top off the pot with the hot water from your kettle.
Once the jar is full, stir the contents with a wooden or plastic chopstick to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim, apply a new lid and a ring (it doesn’t need to be new). Remember that the pressure inside the canner is such that it can often shake loose the ring, so tighten it down more aggressively than you would if you were canning in a boiling water bath.
Once all the jars are full, put the lid on the pressure canner and lock it into place. Bring the pot to a boil and let it vent for approximately 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. Because we’re canning quarts, these beans need to process for 90 minutes (if you opt for pints, they need 75 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.
When your time is up, turn the heat off underneath the pot and let it cool. Don’t try to rush the cooling process because that can do damage to the finished product. Once the pot has depressurized, you can remove the lid and place the jars on a folded kitchen towel to continue to cool and seal.
My favorite way to turn these beans into a basic lunchtime soup is this. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil, salt it moderately, and cook a handful of small pasta (like ditalini or orzo) in it until just al dente. Pour the beans and liquid into another saucepan and using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the beans. The ladle in the pasta water until you have a nice, broth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. If you want a little green vegetable, stir in some ribboned baby spinach at the very end of cooking.
To serve, ladle the soup out into bowls. Top with a drizzle of tasty olive oil and a little grated Parmesan. It is an easy, filling, healthy, and cheap!