The beans are here! They are coming on strong and need to be picked every few days. Time to get canning. To me, there is no better vegetable in the middle of the winter than canned wax beans from my own garden. Home canning can be very satisfying, can save money, and is perfectly safe if done correctly. Botulism bacteria occur naturally in soil so it is possible to make oneself very ill or dead if canning is done wrong. I always follow the instructions.
High acid foods like tomatoes are easier to can because their acid content is inhospitable to many bacteria including botulism. These foods are canned in a hot water bath, meaning they are packed in canning jars, immersed in boiling water and cooked for a certain amount of time. The temperature of boiling water is hot enough to safely preserve acid foods.
Low acid foods like wax beans require steam canning to raise the temperature of the cooking process to 240 degrees F so the preserved vegetables will be safe to eat. The higher temperature kills any bacteria if the canning is done as instructed in such manuals as my handy little Blue Book by the Ball Corporation, makers of canning jars. I use the raw or cold pack method for bean processing because I don’t like my beans to taste over-cooked. For canning, I have an assortment of pressure cookers ranging from four to eight quart size. The smallest cookers hold three jars and the big cooker holds five.
Fresh, tender beans are snapped and thoroughly rinsed to remove any dirt and foreign matter. I can in pint jars that fit neatly into my pressure cookers. A pint of beans is the perfect size for dinner at our house. The cleaned, pre-heated jars are closely packed with raw beans. Too loosely packed allows beans to float and leave a large water space in the bottom. A waste of space that should be filled with vegetables.
I add one-half teaspoon of canning salt to each jar, I like my beans with a little salt. Then boiling water is poured over the beans. I leave one-half inch head space. The lids are tightly applied and the jars go in the pressure cooker. I set the jars on the rack inside the cooker. Warm water is added to the cooker to half-full. After the lid is locked, the weight is placed on the lid at ten pounds. The heat is on high until the weight starts to jiggle, releasing steam. Then the heat is reduced to maintain a steady, easy boil in the cooker with the weight rocking a few times each minute. Processing time is thirty minutes from when the weight begins to rock.
When the time is up, the cooker is removed from the heat and allowed to cool completely. Do not try to quickly cool the cooker by running cold water over it. Too rapid cooling forces out the water inside the canning jars, resulting in dry jars of vegetables, blah. Once the cooker is cooled and the pressure is back to normal, the lid is unlocked. The jars are removed to a towel to completely cool and seal. Each lid is tested by gently pressing the center to assure it is sealed before storage. Sealed lids are concave in the middle and will not move. I do not try to tighten bands as that can break the seal. Now the beans are ready to go in the cupboard for winter. I write the date on the lid so I know which jars to use first if more than one year is in storage.
One great advantage to using glass jars for canning is they can be heated in the microwave when it’s time to eat the beans. I just pop off the top, pour out most of the water and heat the beans in the jar. Two minutes later they are ready to place in a serving bowl for the table.