Tuesday, June 28, 2011

{ Frijoles in a Jar - My First Canning Experience }

Well, maybe I should clarify my title; this was my first canning experience as an adult and with canning a protein. I vaguely remember making jelly with my mom when I was younger after picking a ton of blackberries, but that's a whole different kind of canning I learned.

In today's post I'm going to share my canning experience with you, some tools of the trade and whether I think "Going Old School" is worth it when it comes to canning beans. So come along and see how my frijoles got in their jars.
The very first thing you have to know about canning beans is that it is intense. You have to be ready and willing to commit a whole day to the experience / process. I am told that the outcome is completely worth it (I haven't eaten any of mine yet so I can't verify that part, shoot! I should have eaten some. Oh well). "Completely worth it" can be qualified into two parts: one, monetary savings and two, taste. As I have admitted I have yet to verify the validity of point two, however my girlfriend swears by canning her own beans and with four kids to boot, I believe her.

As for point one, I'll break it down this way. A fifteen ounce can of organic black beans is $1.19 a can at Trader Joe's (the cheapest I know of). I made 23 21 (two didn't seal) 32 ounce jars of black beans, so that's roughly 42 cans of beans. Now if I had bought them canned, it would have cost me $49.98; my dried beans only costed approximately $13. So you can see, there is a ginormous savings on raw materials there. That said, there is the up front fixed cost of jars and lids ($22 for 24 32oz jars) but that can be divided amongst the amount of times you use them because you can reuse them for canning until you break them. There are other canning tools that you'll want too, here's a list:

large pots (for soaking and boiling the beans as well as for sealing non-protein canning items, e.g. jam)
canning funnel (for scooping beans quickly into the jars)
magnetic lid wand (this little doo-dad picks the lids up out of the boiling water to place them on the jar)
jar tongs (to remove the hot jars from the pressure cooker or hot water bath depending on what you are canning)
pressure cooker (to seal the beans, I believe that you only need these to can proteins)

(FYI, these aren't the technical names of all of the tools. Please feel free to educate me in the comment section if you know the proper names.)

Because of the need for these tools, I would recommend your first time canning be with some one who has them. If you decide that canning and the effort it takes isn't for you, then you're only out the price of the jars and raw materials; you'll eat the food and reuse the jars for other things. Only once you're committed to the process should you invest in the tools, they are expensive.

So lets get going and see what it took to get those frijoles in the jars:

These are Julie's pinto beans, I did black beans.
Step 1 Rinse and Soak You need to rinse your beans and then soak them for 12-18 hours before cooking.

Step 2 Boil 'em Up After your beans have soaked, bring them to a boil and let them boil for 30 minutes. While the beans are boiling, I recommend getting your jars ready because you want to put the beans into them while they are still hot.

Step 3 Prep 'em, the jars that is. Put 1 tsp of canning salt in the bottom of your clean jars.

Who knew? I didn't know that there was "canning" salt.
You'll want to continue preparing to put the beans in the jars by: boiling water in a tea kettle (to add liquids to your beans) and in a separate sauce pan with the lids (to boil those as well).

Step 4 Scoop 'em Now that everything is in place we'll really put the frijoles in their jars. Here we go!

You can see in this picture that the liquid is not all the way to the bottom of the jar's neck, so this is where you use the hot water to finish filling the jar "leaving 1-inch head space." (Ball Blue Book)

Once you've filled 'er up, then you wipe 'er down. Take a clean, wet wash rag and wipe off the rim of the jar so that nothing will get in the way of it sealing. After you have cleaned off the rim, grab a lid from the boiling water with the "magnetic lid wand" (as seen in the left hand side of the picture above - it's blue), place it on the jar and screw the ring on top to hold it in place.

Step 5 Seal 'em Up Next you place the jars in the pressure cookers, while everything is still warm, and seal the jars. How to use a pressure cooker is a whole different post, but you can just read the manual if you ever get one.

You want to bring the pressure cooker to 10lbs of pressure and keep it there, trickier than you'd think - at least with the pressure cookers we were using, for 90 minutes.

Once you've kept the pressure cooker right at about 10lbs of pressure, never under, for 90 minutes turn off the heat and wait for all of the pressure to leave the pot. This will take at least another 90 minutes.

When you can open the pressure cooker, you remove your hot jars with the jar tongs to a place where they can sit for 24 hours. 

Within a few hours, you'll want to check that the jars actually sealed. If some didn't,  just get them in the fridge and eat them like fresh beans. (I forgot to check and that's why I have to toss my two jars that didn't seal.) And that's all it took. Step-wise, simple; time-wise, it's intense.

All in all, Julie and I spent 10 hours canning and came out with 23 jars of beans each - the equivalent of 92 cans! Will I do it again, heck yeah! It was fun and I'm looking forward to eating my beans. Julie and I already have plans to can in an undisclosed, commercial size kitchen so that it won't take 10 hours on my piddly little stove in 20 gazillion little pots. Maybe we'll make it a party and invite you along? Maybe.  Next time we'll be doing garbanzo beans so we can make some hummus.

If you plan to can, I recommend picking up the canning bible: Ball Blue Book guide. I don't know if they come new, but here's a picture of the copy Julie gave me (she found it at a garage sale):

This bad boy has a copyright date of 1972, does that make it an antique book? Definitely vintage. If you don't have or find a Ball Blue Book guide, you can also go online to www.FreshPreserving.com to get canning recipes and instructions (they even have a "Home Canning Discovery Kit" if you want to try out small batch canning- I think this looks like fun!). You'll want the precise directions when you can since canning is kind of a science; as far as that science goes though, canning beans is described in one paragraph:

In the end, I enjoyed my canning experience and I'm excited to can more. I'm hoping that my next feat will be fruit preserves. I can't wait to head out to Spooner's for some strawberries this weekend, maybe I will get enough to make some preserves; maybe not, they're so good that it's hard not to eat them. I definitely think that canning in this day and age is a hobby and a choice, and maybe at some point I'll even save money by doing it.

Thanks for reading.  What do you think about canning? Does it interest you? Do you can or will you try canning? Let me know your thoughts, I'm interested - really.

Buen provecho!

1 comment:

Joy Madison said...

If you find a place to can that isn't too much farther south than Olympia, I'll come can with you :D August works better, b/c my babysitter is going to Grammy's for the month of July!

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