Saturday, January 7, 2012

Home Bottled (Canned) Beans

Do you ever buy canned beans at the grocery store?  They are definitely a convenient way to serve up some added protein in a frugal way.  I used to use them from time to time in my soups, etc. but most cans used for beans and many other foods (including baby formula) are lined with a plastic known as BPA.

This from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, is a chemical that has been used for more than 40 years in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers such as baby bottles and reusable cups and the lining of metal food and beverage cans, including canned liquid infant formula.  Trace amounts of BPA can be found in some foods packaged in these containers.
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration conducted a review of toxicology research and information on BPA, and, at that time, judged food-related materials containing BPA on the market to be safe.
But recent studies have reported subtle effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals.  While BPA is not proven to harm children or adults, these newer studies have led federal health officials to express some concern about the safety of BPA. 
It is clear that the government and scientists and doctors need more research to better understand the potential human health effects of exposure to BPA, especially when it comes to the impact of BPA exposure on young children (my emphasis added)...
I don't know about you, but by this point I'd read enough to know that I don't want for my family or me to end a future statistic regarding BPA.  (If you want to read more, just click on the link above for the full story.)

Several years ago, I had purchased a pressure canner.   I really didn't use it much for the first few years at all.  I know a lot of people are concerned about using pressure canners or doing any home canning at all and I'm sorry to hear that.  I've used my canner to, really, make my life simpler.  I can have on hand home-bottled chicken, beef, ham, and other meats for salads, soups and sandwiches.  I've also used my canner to preserve homemade spaghetti sauce and soups and so much more.  This makes it quick and easy for supper on warm nights when I don't feel like doing a lot of cooking or when I am in a rush and just don't know what to make.

Today, I'm going to share with you just how easy it is to bottle dried beans.  Beans are such a great source of cheap protein.  I grew up in a household of "retired" farmers that only thought of protein as something that was able to run at some point, and we didn't each beans often...and I was fine with that because I didn't like them much.  But as an adult, I've come to enjoy the noisy little critters more, and have begun to incorporate them into our meals on a more regular basis.  And when you have access to beans that are already fully-cooked, well then, that's even better yet.
Home-Bottled (Canned) Beans
  • Dried beans.  You'll need 1 C for each quart or 1/2 C for each pint
  • Clean canning jars free from any nicks or chips.
  • NEW canning lids for each jar
  • Non-rusted metal bands to screw the lid to the jar
Note #1: For my Great Northerns and Pintos, I will usually can them in quart jars.  Garbanzos I can in pints.  Also when using your home-bottled beans, figure that 1 pint jar = 1 "can" from the grocery store; 1 quart jar = 2 "cans"
  1. Soak the amount of beans you wish to bottle overnight.  You'll need a ratio of 1 part beans to 3 parts water to make sure they stay covered with water.  (You may need a really big bowl to do this in or a couple of them.)
  2. Canning Day:  In your canner, get enough boiling water going to immerse all your jars for sterilization.
  3. In a small kettle, boil a small amount of water.  Once water is boiling, take off heat, place canning lids in the water (rubber side up), and cover.
  4. In a large kettle, boil more water.  This boiling water will be used to fill the jars after you have put the beans in.
When all of that is done:
  1. Drain and rinse soaked beans.
  2. Place beans into hot jars. 
  3. Fill jars with water.  Leave about 1" head space. (You may choose to add some broth with the water, but I normally do not to keep the flavor of the beans "neutral".  In addition, adding salt before beans are fully cooked can keep them from becoming tender.)
  4. Top jars with prepared lids.  Screw bands on snugly.
  5. Place jars into canner so they are not touching.  Add water to the bottom of your canner per your manufacturer's instructions.
  6. Prior to sealing, if you have a canner with a metal-to-metal seal, make sure you have recently lubed that seal up with some Vaseline.  Seal canner.
  7. Following your manufacturer's instructions, process 75 minutes at 10 lbs. for quarts; 60 minutes at 10 lbs. for pints.
  8. Turn heat off and allow to de-pressurize.  (If using a canner that has a counterweight like mine, be sure to allow all pressure to escape before taking off counterweight.  I lost a couple batches of food before I realized what I was doing wrong!)
  9. When depressurized, open canner and take hot jars out.  Place on clean towel somewhere free of drafts so you don't have jars break from cold air.
  10. After fully cooled, check each jar to make sure it has sealed.  Remove rings and wash so they are ready for your next canning adventure.
  11. IMPORTANT:  Label and date each jar.  I just take a Sharpie marker and write directly on the lid of each jar. 
  12. In warm, soapy water, wash jars so there is no food residue left on them.  You don't want to attract any little varmints, now do you?
Store in a cool, dark place.  Your home-bottled goodness will retain its goodness for about a year.
Note #2:  When using your home-bottled items, use your common sense.  Just like you would not eat any purchased canned food where the can/lid was swollen up or the contents smelled funny or looked bad, the same goes for your homemade goodies, too.  Although that has not ever happened to me yet, I am still very aware.  Each time I take a canned item out of the pantry, I carefully inspect it.

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