Putting A Lid On Green Beans

IMG_1110Having a green bean emergency?! So many questions came in over this summer about canning green beans that it seems time to discuss what is and is not recommended for the process. No one wants to be told that they under-processed their precious jars of homegrown green beans and need to discard them to be safe, but unfortunately we’ve had to break the news repeatedly.

Let’s first address the most common and critical safety concern with canning green beans: “I canned my green beans using a boiling water bath…is that ok?”

Oftentimes upon the advice from a grandmother or neighbor, people make an attempt to can their green beans using a boiling water canner. BOILING WATER CANNING IS NOT A SAFE OPTION FOR GREEN BEANS. While stories may be told of how they’ve done it for years and never gotten sick, the risk of botulism is ever present in canned green beans that were processed in a boiling water canner. Such beans are under-processed, not having received a heat treatment at a high enough temperature to destroy the toxin-producing spores of Clostridium botulinum. The concern is real: under-processed green beans caused two outbreaks of botulism in the United States in 2008 and 2009.

The only process we support for canning green beans is using a pressure canner. Here are our recommendations for Canning Green Beans. The process itself is simple – wash, snap, boil, fill, process – but the use of a pressure canner is absolutely critical to ensure the safety of the beans. The pH of green beans (5.7 – 6.2) is well above the cut off that can be processed in a boiling water canner (4.6 or below).

IMG_4675If you do not have a pressure canner and do not plan to get one, you do have the delicious option of canning Pickled Dilled Beans in a boiling water canner. This recipe has enough vinegar that the overall pH of the product lowers to the safe zone for boiling water canning – also called acidification, or pickling. Don’t like pickled products? Try freezing your green beans or even drying them into a snappy snack!

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3 thoughts on “Putting A Lid On Green Beans

  1. Jane Jett

    Years ago we asked consumers to boil their home canned green beans for 15 minutes before consuming. Is that still true today?

    1. nchfp Post author

      Current information from USDA says to “Boil home-processed, low-acid canned foods for 10 minutes prior to serving. For higher altitudes, add 1 minute for each 1,000 feet of elevation.”
      http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a70a5447-9490-4855-af0d-e617ea6b5e46/Clostridium_botulinum.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

      A “boil” should be a hard, rolling boil. Also please note that this procedure is suggested for all home-canned foods in general, as an extra way to ensure safety — it is not intended for unsealed foods left out at room temperature or otherwise improperly home-canned food. Here is how it is worded in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning:
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/for_safety_sake.html

      And also see the beginning of the USDA canning guide (page I, the third page of the file): http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/INTRO%20section%20Home%20Can.pdf

      If any home-canned food is suspect of being spoiled, then discard it. Here are is our advice about Identifying and Handling Spoiled Canned Food:
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/identify_handle_spoiled_canned_food.html

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