A few years back, my mother gifted to me her old (aka missing pieces) pressure canner. After purchasing a few parts we had that bad boy back up and ready to go. I can honestly say I love that old piece of metal. It allows us to preserve so much wonderful food for the winter months, without having to worry about things like, “what if we lose power,” which I might add happens from time to time around here. No one wants to lose a freezer full of yummy goodness due to a power outage. Plus, I think canned green beans taste so much better then frozen ones.
Canning green beans is not a hard thing to do either! Even if you don’t grow your own green beans you can pick up a nice mess of them at a farmers’ market. With a pressure canner and some jars, you are on your way to the most amazing meals in the winter months. Nothing beats fresh, but canned comes a close second, locking in all that yummy goodness.
So how does one get started canning green beans? Well if you grow your own, you want to pick the medium size beans for canning. I think they just taste better and hold up better in the canning process. Once you have your beans, either through picking or purchase, you need to give them a quick bath and then it is time to hold a party. A party?!?! Yup, a bean snapping party! My family loves to get together and snap.
To snap your beans, you are going to take of the ends, you know, those pointy parts, and throw them out, in your compost, or to your livestock. Next you want to snap your beans into uniformed size pieces around an inch or so long. You want them to be about the same size so they all process at the same rate in the canner. We are still working with the country kids on their sizing. The boys love to snap, but don’t pay attention to details sometimes.
Once your beans are ready to go, it is time to get your jars ready. And important part of preserving food is to make sure that everything is clean. Even if they are new jars and you just bought them, start by washing your jars and lids in warm, soapy water and rinsing them well. Place the jar rack in the pressure canner, set the jars in the rack, and fill canner with water. You want to boil the jars for around 10 minutes to sterilize them properly. We sterilize the lids and rings too in another pot just because they are easier to get back out.
A piece of equipment you should also invest in (besides the canner and jars) is a jar lifter. The jar lifter is a must to avoid scalding when placing and removing jars from the canner. Don’t worry, they don’t cost much.
Now that your beans are ready and your jars are sterile, it’s time to get packing! Place a kitchen towel on your counter to set the jars on as you take them out of the canner. They will be very hot after being sterilized, so use your jar lifter. Now you can buy a canning funnel if you want, but we just start stuffing the beans in the jars, this is called “raw packing.” Try to pack the beans in as tightly as possible, leaving an inch at the top for headspace. We also add in a 1 teaspoon of canning salt to each jar. Salt is used not for flavor, but to help make an anaerobic environment. Bacteria doesn’t like anaerobic environments and canners don’t like bacteria!
Once your beans and salt are in the jar, it is time to add in some boiling water. Remember your jars are hot from being sterilized and adding in cold water could make them shatter. Make sure you maintain that 1-inch headspace in your jar. Now it’s time to get the bubbles out of the jar. Yes, they make tools for that too, or you can just use a butter knife to work the beans around and release and bubbles that have formed in your jar while pouring the water in. Make sure you wipe the rims of your jars dry before placing the lids on and screwing on the bands. Do not over tighten the bands. They should be fingertip tightened, not cranked on like a muscle man.
Using your jar lifter, put the jars into the pressure canner, leaving space between them. Once all the jars are in, adjust the water level per YOUR pressure canner’s instructions. If you do need to add in more water, make sure you use hot water. Now it is time to lock down your canner and make sure the lid is secure. Leave your vent open and adjust your heat to medium and bring the water in your canner to a boil. Let the canner vent a few minutes before you place the weight on. I love the sound a pressure canner makes as it processes. Call me weird but that rattle and hiss get me so excited!
You will want to have your weight set for 10lbs of pressure if you live UNDER 1,000 feet and 15lbs pressure if you live OVER 1,000 feet. Let your pint jars process for 20 minutes and your quart jars process for 25 minutes. When your processing time is done, turn off the heat and allow the canner to cool down on its own. Don’t try to rush the cooling process, it will only take about an hour. This also gives the pressure time to drop. If you try to rush the release of pressure by venting or removing the gage it can cause the water in your jars to siphon out, which is a bad thing.
Now comes the good part…. Removing your jars! Unlock your canner and remove the cover. Remember there WILL be steam so keep your face back, please. Give the jars a few minutes to adjust to the drop in pressure and the cooling effects of opening the lid before using your jar lifter to remove the jars and set them on a towel. The jars will be very hot and will need to cool off, so don’t go grabbing them with your bare hands! Now wait and listen….. That’s right, listen for the beautiful “ping” sound the lids make when they seal. There is nothing like that “ping” sound.
If a jar is going to seal, it will do so within 24 hours. You can check to see if your jars have sealed by pushing down on the center of the lid. If it is seal, it should not pop up when you take your finger off. If the lid does flex, then it didn’t seal and you will need to place the jar in the fridge and use it up with a few days.
Now that you have your sealed jars, full of glorious, fresh, summer goodness, it is time to take the bands off (yeah, we didn’t do this last year and they are hard as heck to get off later if you don’t) and label them. Use a permeate marker to write the date it was canned on the lid of each jar. You will want to store your jars in a dark, cool place. I remember my grandparent’s basement was always jammed packed with canned goods. Our basement is super scary, so we just put ours in a cabinet, out of direct sunlight. The great thing about canning your own food is the shelf life. These green beans will be for up to a year or so.