Monday, October 7, 2013

Pressure canning dry beans - My no-soak, no-pre-cook method

This is what a lot of my recipes look like. Thorough, no?

OK, it's that time of year, where I still refuse to turn on the furnace, still have the windows open all day and night and the thermostat reads in the low 60s for most of the day. I've taken out the sweaters and there's two comforters on the bed.


Only problem is, I went down to the basement and lo, there were no more canned beans. Only dry. A lot of dry. I hate cooking with dry beans, it takes forever and it's really rather tedious.

So while I was down there I grabbed a few jars of dry beans (I don't leave them in the bag they come in) and the pressure canner. OK, it actually took three trips, it's how I get my exercise.

WARNING: This is not the USDA recommended method, it is how *I* can dry beans. I find it to be easy, simple and effective. I can see no way in which it would be bad or not work if you follow these instructions, it produces what is to me a firmer and better end product than the recommended version of soak, cook, then can, which makes for (again, to me) soggy, mushy beans. If you do not feel comfortable canning beans this way or if you prefer your beans softer than this, please refer to the USDA guidelines, even with soaking, cooking and then canning beans you will save money and time and have a product that is healthier than commercial canned goods with additives you don't want or BPA in the can.

Here's the procedure:

Assemble: Beans (any kind of dry beans will work, in this instance I am using navy beans and chick peas), clean jars and lids and rings, pressure canner (you must not water bath can this, beans are a low acid food and will not be safe to eat if water bath canned), water, seasonings if you are so inclined, lid lifter, jar lifter, a few towels and a clean cloth.

Check your canner for functionality (nothing lodged in the vents, seal is supple, it's clean), this is different for every canner, so please follow manufacturers recommendations.

Put your jars into the dishwasher and run the drying cycle (I have mentioned that I am lazy, right?) or, if you don't have a dishwasher, put them into a sink of hot water. This is just to warm up your already clean jars.

Set your lids in a pot of water on the stove to simmer.

Sort and rinse beans (however many you are going to can,). I measure them before I rinse them and then again as I put them in the jars. Use a bit of vinegar in the rinse water if you are so inclined, I do to make sure they are clean.


sorting and rinsing the pre-measured beans

Let the beans drip dry while you line up however many jars you are planning on canning. Make sure jars are clean. It doesn't matter if you use wide mouth or regular mouth, I tend to use wide mouth because they are easier to get the beans out of when we use them, but as you can see, either works. Make sure to check your jars for cracks and chips, especially around the rim.

My canner takes 7 quart jars

Put about 3 inches of room temperature water into your pressure canner and set the bottom into it. Do not turn on the heat yet.

Fill each jar with either a half cup (for pints) or just slightly less than a cup (for quarts, seriously, like 3 beans less than a full cup) of rinsed beans. Add your seasonings (salt, onions, garlic, pepper, chili powder, up to you, I add a bit of salt, usually)

One tsp of salt per quart is all I add

Top off with room temperature water (I use filtered for this, because it will be what we eat) until there is an inch of headspace left.

Needs a bit more water (actually, the bottom of the ridge on the jar is an inch, but to make sure it's right I measure with the blue thingy that has a name I cannot recall right now)

Dip your clean cloth into the water you are simmering the lids in (careful, this is really hot) and wipe the rims of the jars clean with it.

It's a lid...uhm...magnet

Using your lid lifter, set your lids on the jars and finger tighten the rings. Finger tight means nicely tight, but not so tight that you are straining.

Place the jars in your pressure canner.

Once the canner is filled to capacity, close the lid and turn on the heat.

When you have vented steam for a solid ten minutes, put the weight on the vent and let the pressure build up.

This might be the best $10 I ever spent. It's an adjustable weight 5, 10 and 15lbs

When the pressure reads 10lbs*, start the timer (75 min for pints, 90 min for quarts)  and then keep the pressure at that level.

With the 10lb weight rocking and the pressure gauge reading at a solid 10lbs it's time to start the timer. 90 minutes for the quarts I'm doing 

Any adjustments you make to the temperature must be gradual, large drops in pressure will affect your product, you may lose moisture and the jars might not seal or even break.

When your timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the pressure normalize on its own. While that is going on,

Notice how the pop up button on the right is down, the pressure is down and the black safety valve is flat, that's what you wait for before taking the weight off and opening the canner. And be careful of the hot steam that is still in there.

Arrange a towel on your counter away from drafts, so that you can

set your jars on the towel when you lift them out of the canner to cool for about 24 hours.

The rings only look like they are on there sideways :) Also, I underfilled the jars a bit, not a big deal.

Wait for the ping.

In case you are wondering, YES, I'm a dork.

After a few hours you can check if the jars have sealed, tapping on the top is my preferred method, a sealed jar will sound a nice, high note, an unsealed jar will sound dull. Final test is trying to lift the jar by the lid if it sounded dull. And I tend to err on the side of caution and put the ones I am not sure about in the fridge for immediate consumption or the freezer for later (another reason to use wide mouth jars, they can be frozen).

Quick before they all seal:
Sound test of a different kind

Take the rings off for storage! Always take the ring off for storage of canned goods.
Crud accumulated under the ring can cause mold and rusting and if the ring is on and the jar didn't seal right it can hold the lid in place while the contents ferment and then re-seal, and that's the kind of thing that can (will and has) kill people. Don't eat canned goods that have the rings still on. Not worth it.

Voila, canned beans. With ingredients you can pronounce. And really quite easy to do.

Quick bit of math:

One pound of beans runs anywhere between $0.89 and $2.49 around here, I don't buy them at more than about a dollar on principle, but in the interest of fairness, let's say one pound costs $1.50.

That pound will fill 3 quart jars (plus a half pint), so that's less than $0.50 in beans

Throw in the $0.06 for the two gallons of water I will use to process and fill the jars and the $0.11 for the stove usage and we have a total of $1.67 for three quart jars of beans for a whopping $0.56 for a large can of beans. If you can beat that price, do it. Stock up. Bring me some.

Realistically, because I buy beans for less than a dollar a pound I don't spend more than $0.31 per quart jar or $0.15 per pint of home canned beans. It's completely worth it for us, especially if I consider that I mostly can in the colder months, so there is a marginal gain in frugality because I am heating up the house while doing it. More math than I care to do, but the thought sure makes me feel all virtuous ;) <snicker>

One last thought: This method lets me throw in a quart or a pint of beans at the last minute when I am processing something else and have room in the canner. That doesn't lower the price of the beans any, but it does mean I am not running a partial load, so to speak. An hour and a half of the gas stove running costs me about $0.11 whether there is something in the pot or not.

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching

*At sea level, if you live at a higher elevation, please adjust your pressure accordingly


  1. Thanks for this post, its awesome! I also love your writing style, almost makes me feel like i am chatting with a friend who is teaching me about canning while we are eating chocolate :) Nice!

  2. Tried this, not very happy :( My jars are not even half full. I did the quart size using Navy beans. Do you think maybe with Navy beans you should add a cup and a half per quart?

    1. I honestly have no idea why it would do that. And there are so many variables with this kind of thing, my only suggestion to you is to use more beans the next time?
      I've done this with navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, and while there is some difference in how full the jars wind up being, I've never had them be less than half full. Most I get is about an inch at the top.

  3. Thank you so much! I've been using this technique for a little while, particularly on black beans. The final product is much nicer, and I'm so glad I found this post. I reference it often!

  4. I want to process dry beans using the small jelly jars, I believe it is 4 ounces. I want them to be a single serving for my mom and sister. Have you ever used the small jars and if so how many beans would go in each jar.

    1. Uhm, I'll be honest, I have no clue, but I don't think that this method would work for such a tiny quantity. You could try pre-soaking the beans and see what happens, but I am not optimistic.