Category Archives: Canning

Canning Dry Beans: It Matters How They Go in the Jar

As a low-acid food, all beans require the use of a pressure canner for preservation by home canning, unless they are sufficiently pickled (acidified) to bring them out of the low-acid food category. But pressure canning isn’t a magic bullet if you don’t know the safe way to prepare food and carry out the right process for each food type and style. If you are new to pressure canning or could use a refresher of the basic how-to, then please read Using Pressure Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, then also read Principles of Home Canning from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. 

Recommended procedure for home canning of dry beans

The USDA recommended process in the Complete Guide to Home Canning for home canning dried beans require a hydration step prior to filling jars:   https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_04/beans_peas_shelled.html

The options are to (1) place sorted (for stones or other contaminants) dried beans or peas in a large pot and cover with water. Soak the beans 12 to 18 hours in a cool place. Then drain off the soaking water and do not use it in canning the beans. The other option is, to more quickly hydrate the beans (2) cover the sorted and washed beans with boiling water in a saucepan. Boil them 2 minutes, remove them from the heat, soak them 1 hour and then drain. That cooking water is also not used in canning the beans.

The procedure then calls for covering drained beans hydrated by either method with fresh water and boil 30 minutes. The USDA canning process recommendation is for a hot pack prepared this way only: hot beans boiled 30 minutes then filled quickly into jars while still hot. (But of course being careful not to burn yourself, as with all canning steps.) Optional salt can be added to the beans in the jars if desired (½ teaspoon of salt per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart jar). The jars with cooked beans (and salt if added) then get filled with the hot cooking water, leaving 1-inch headspace. As with all jars packed this way, water should cover the food pieces for expected heat distribution during processing and best quality in storage of the canned beans.  See the link above for full instructions and the processing times and temperatures (pressures) for pints vs quarts, and for various altitudes.

Do not put dry beans directly into the jar

According to inquiries I get, and what I read elsewhere on the Internet, it is popular practice to put dry beans in the jars, cover them with water and put them into the pressure canner that way. Unfortunately, I have never found or been shown research for home canning that has determined what the process time should be for dry beans filled into jars in this manner.  A safe process time is partially dependent on jar size and type of food, yes, but it is also partially dependent on the texture of the food, the temperature of the food and liquid, and the weight of the food filled into jars.  Dry beans sitting in water at the start of the process time will not heat up at the same rate as beans prepared as described in the research-based method described above and in the USDA materials. The final sterilization of the jar contents achieved by the end of the process will not be the same as when the process is applied to jars filled as described in the recommended methods.  People canning their dry beans by other methods, and especially by starting with dry beans in the jars, are taking a big risk on food spoilage and possibly botulism food poisoning.  Those doing this and getting away with it have just been lucky – so far. If you choose to do it, you are taking a chance by your own decision.

Additional home canning options for dry beans

There are also different processes for different types of beans and dry bean recipes for home canning. For canning dry beans, there are research-based processes in the USDA database for Baked Beans, prepared as described in the process directions, and Dry Beans with Tomato or Molasses Sauce versions provided.

Home canning of fresh beans

If you have fresh beans of the Lima variety, then follow these directions for Fresh, Shelled, Lima Beans. Follow these similar procedures, but slightly different directions for Snap and Italian Green and Wax Beans. As you’re deciding whether to prepare a hot pack or raw pack, remember that hot packs are often considered to produce the highest quality final product, and you can often fit more beans into one jar, even though raw packs do cut down on the prep time.

The home canning processes which we can recommend for these various bean products can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at this menu: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can4_vegetable.html .

Be safe when canning and use research-based processes for all your beans

Please be safe in your home canning choices. The research-based processes available may seem very limiting and traditional but there has been little public funding for researching new recommendations in a long time and there are few labs set up and staffed to do home canning research. You can flavor or combine your home canned vegetables with other ingredients after opening them, at the time of serving, rather than risk botulism or losing money from spoiled food from making up a process for your own recipes. This solution doesn’t address choosing an easier way to fill jars than has been tested such as with dry beans, but is something to consider for other food choices.

Even though this has been about dry beans, I hope you all are looking forward to another season of local, fresh vegetables coming in like I am!

###

Dry grains and beans in canning jars

“Dry Canning” Isn’t Canning To Me

Quite a few people are circulating directions for what they call “dry canning” as a method of storing dried foods. It is not a food preservation method we recommend.

What is canning?

Just because canning jars are used in “dry canning” does not mean the suggested procedures fit the classic definition of canning.

Canning as a method of food preservation or processing refers to a procedure of heat treating closed containers of food with the goal of producing what is called a “commercially sterile”, vacuum sealed-food that can then be stored safely at room temperature. The preservation goal is to kill any spoilage and pathogenic (harmful) microorganisms that otherwise would be able to survive in food at room temperature storage. In some categories of foods, bacteria can also be controlled by acidity or moisture control as well as the heat of canning. In other foods (e.g., low-acid or slightly acid foods) heat usually has to do the whole job. Different foods will have different microorganisms targeted for killing or control, depending on the nature of the food.

Why dry canning isn’t canning

Canning is done with moist foods because the moisture inside the container would support the growth of microorganisms. Dried foods do not have the same concerns even if a food is low-acid because the removal of available moisture limits or prevents the growth of microorganisms. Storage of dried foods for long periods of time will take into consideration means to preserve food quality, however, as well as preventing reabsorption of moisture into the food.

“Dry canning” techniques I see circulating call for putting dried food like grains, beans, and nuts, into canning jars. In some methods, canning lids are then placed on the jars and the jars heated in an oven. Usually about 200°F is recommended. In other directions, the food in jars is heated without the lids, which are then placed on the jars when they come out of the oven.

These procedures do not describe true canning preservation of food but instead would be considered a method of packaging dried foods for storage — one that, again, we cannot recommend because of several issues with it.

Issues with dry canning

Here are some issues to think about with this concept:

  1. This process is not “canning” just because it uses canning jars.
  2. It is unknown if this process can sterilize the food, although it might cause vacuum sealing of jars. This would not be a time and temperature combination known to kill many bacterial spores or mold spores.
  3. This method does not remove all of the oxygen from the jar before sealing and may trap moisture from the food if condensation occurs. While the presence of spores would not be an issue in very dry foods, any moisture pockets say from condensation or incompletely dried foods could be a problem. Moisture in the jar with some retained oxygen could support the growth of airborne molds or even bacteria not killed by the low heating in some seemingly dry foods. Some foods may seem dry to the consumer but still have enough moisture in them to come out upon heating and closing up in a container. This could be especially true of home dried foods.
  4. The dry oven process used at home has never been shown to sterilize these various dry foods or produce the claimed extended shelf life with quality. In fact, there is no known researched shelf life for foods packaged just this way at home.  (If someone can lead me to the research I have not been able to find, please let me know.) Extended shelf life expectations are available for dry foods prepared and packaged by other methods (see the Utah State University Extension references below).
  5. This heating could even make the quality of some foods worse.  This could be either by moisture condensation upon cooling, or if the food is lipid-containing nuts and grains, increased enzymatic reaction causing rancidity.
  6. A major manufacturer of canning jars and lids in the U.S. does not support the use of their jars and lids/sealing compound in this manner.
  7. Because this type of process is not recommended, doing it can be a waste of resources, time and energy.

Recommended storage methods for dry goods

dry_bean_light

Photo by E. Andress

 

Thoroughly dried foods can be stored a fairly long time in airtight containers at moderate room temperatures or in the freezer. If you want to vacuum seal containers of dry foods, methods that will preserve them safely and provide better food quality include:

(1) A vacuum sealing machine that has adapters for jars in addition to sealing bags if you want your food in jars.  This vacuum packaging is done at room temperature without heating the food.

(2) Oxygen absorbers inside your containers of these foods.  Oxygen absorbers can help preserve the quality of foods and also aid in insect control.

(3) If you are using the heating method to control for possible insect contamination of your dried food, the Utah State University booklet linked below has methods for heating and then cooling dry foods BEFORE they are packaged for storage. It also describes freezing procedures before packaging as an alternative to insect control. Even heating some foods on an open oven tray before packaging can cause some flavor changes that using the freezing method would not.

Utah State University Extension methods, for example, for long-term storage of dry rice and beans:

10-year storage of rice: https://extension.usu.edu/foodstorage/howdoi/white_rice

10 or more years for beans:  https://extension.usu.edu/foodstorage/howdoi/dry_beans

And here is a large book/booklet from Utah State University about storing food, A Guide to Food Storage for Emergencies, with more specific information and the oven or freezing methods for insect control:

https://extension.usu.edu/foodstorage/ou-files/Food_Storage_Booklet2.pdf

I would like to thank my colleagues in some other states for helping to review and contribute to these points. Nancy Flores at New Mexico State University helped get some organization and formatting to them, and Karen Blakeslee at Kansas State University helped with review and additions.  There were others who initially reviewed my first version and I thank them also.

###

Get Ready Now for the Summer Harvest

seeds_ela

If you are thinking about joining the trend in our communities to preserve food this summer, start planning and preparing now! Start by checking your equipment and supplies. Proper equipment in good condition is required for safe, high quality home canned food, for example.

If you’ve not yet purchased your needed equipment, there are two types of canners to consider: boiling water canners and pressure canners. A boiling water canner is used for canning acid or acidified foods like most fruits, most pickles, jams and jellies. Boiling water canners cost about $30-$100, or can be assembled yourself with a large stock pot, secure lid, and rack to keep jars off the bottom of the pot.

A pressure canner is essential for canning low acid foods such as vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. Temperatures inside pressure canners reach higher than boiling water canners (for example, 240°F and above as compared to about 212°F). This is necessary to follow the tested processes available to be sure and kill the toxin–producing spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.  If not killed, these spores can grow out and produce a deadly toxin (poison) in room-temperature stored jars of the low-acid foods mentioned.

You have two choices for your type of pressure canner: a dial gauge canner or a weighted gauge canner. Most steps in managing the pressure canning process are the same, but the two styles have different types of gauges to indicate the pressure inside the canner. Expect to spend $100-$150 or more on a pressure canner.  USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation processes have only been developed in traditional stovetop pressure canners managed as in Using Pressure Canners on our website.

If you use a dial gauge canner, then it’s important to have the gauge tested for accuracy before each canner season or if you drop or damage your gauge. It isn’t as easy as it used to be to get gauges tested. Try a local hardware store or your local Cooperative Extension agent, even though not all still provide this service. For either type of canner, check that the rubber gasket is flexible and soft, and if it is brittle, sticky, or cracked then replace it with a new gasket. Also check that any openings, like vent ports, are completely clean and open.

You’ll also need jars, lids, and ring bands manufactured for home canning. When getting started, new jars are a worthwhile investment (versus purchasing used jars from a yard sale or flea market) because very old jars may break under pressure and heat. Mason-type jars of standard sizes (e.g., half-pint, pint, and quart) are recommended for the tested processes available from science-based sources such as USDA and your land-grant university. Make sure those jars are manufactured and sold for canning purposes; not all glass and Mason-style jars are tempered to prevent breakage with the extreme heat and temperature swings during canning. When you actually get to canning your harvest, be sure to follow manufacturers’ advice for preparing your jars and lids. In addition to standard cooking utensils like cutting boards and bowls, a jar funnel, jar lifter, headspace measurement tool, and bubble-freer are items that you will want to have handy for canning.

If you are freezing your harvest, be sure to use packaging such as plastic bags or rigid containers that are intended for freezer storage of foods.  Not all plastics are the same, and you want materials that will hold up to freezer temperatures as well as protect your goodies from damaging air and mixtures of odors.

Growing your own? You may be lucky enough to have previously started keeping garden records so you remember the name of that great tomato or pepper variety you have liked this past year. If not, think about planning to keep records this year. A garden journal might include variety, seed source, date planted, date harvested, notes on how it grew and resisted disease, and your personal evaluation of the crop.

A final must is reliable, up-to-date canning and other food preservation instructsetp5ions. Specific kitchen equipment or ingredients could be needed to follow directions as they are written for food preservation. Look ahead to what you plan on canning so you can obtain or organize the equipment and tools needed before your garden produce is ready to use. And in the case of canning especially, very significant food safety risks are possible by following unsound recommendations. Reliable, up-to-date canning instructions are available at the NCHFP website, or in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, So Easy to Preserve, or the county or local area Extension office in your state.

———–

 

Preserving Those Unripe Tomatoes

Some of us have planned purposes for green, unripe tomatoes early in the season – like my mother’s delish green tomato relish recipe! – while others are grabbing end of season unripe tomatoes off the vines before the frost hits. Now you have a lot of these green tomatoes, what to do with them? greentom_blog

Unripe tomatoes may be canned like ripe tomatoes, following the same directions including acidification. Even though unripe tomatoes should have a lower pH (higher acid content) than their ripe counterparts, we do not know if even in the unripe stage your variety and growing situation may mean they are still above pH 4.6. So follow the USDA directions for canning tomato and tomato products, including the acidification. See the acidification advice even for green tomatoes here: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_03/tomato_intro.html and the available canning procedures for tomatoes here: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can3_tomato.html

How about that prized relish in our family?  That and other relishes calling for green tomatoes include

And, even though it doesn’t call for green, unripe tomatoes, I might throw in the more unusual, very tasty Oscar Relish to help use up those red tomatoes being grabbed off vines before the frost, also: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/oscar_relish.html .

Green-Tomato-Pie-049-photoshoppedAnother option for something a bit different (and not a relish), is the Green Tomato Pie Filling: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/can_pie/green_tomato_filling.html This will give you a great headstart for something to have handy during winter holidays (or really anytime).

Image courtesy of Randal Oulton

Some look forward to the summer treat of fried green tomato slices; you can freeze your raw slices and have them for frying later in the year, also:

Freezing green tomato slices: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/tomato_green.html

For more information on canning and freezing methods, including packaging choices and headspace for freezer containers, see general sections on these topics available from the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia, https://nchfp.uga.edu.

###