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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Canning Beans

This lull between the seasons is about to kill me.  I think wintertime is absolutely the worst, most difficult time of the year for preppers and homesteaders like me. 

At first it's pleasant.

You spend spring starting seeds and planting plants and getting the yard into shape after a long, cold winter.

You spend summer tilling and weeding and otherwise keeping the yard and garden tidy, awaiting your first fruits of the year.  And there's the lovely family stuff, like summer vacations and homemade ice cream and fire works and fireflies.  Ahhhh summer.

You spend fall pickling and dehydrating and freezing and jellying and canning anything that you can lay hands on, in addition to winterizing the yard and garden in preparation for cold weather.  And then there's the push to get ready for the holidays.

So yeah, those first lazy weeks of winter are pleasant.  A chance to rest mind and body after a busy year.  A chance to hibernate and enjoy the fruit of your labors.  And then the boredom sets in.  The restlessness.  The listlessness.  The never-ending days of snow-ice-thaw-snow-ice-thaw where the only respite for the soul is the occasional seed catalog that lets you daydream about spring.  I feel so very unproductive during the wintertime.  As I said last week, you can only bake so much bread and cook so many casseroles before you want to throw yourself off a bridge...don't worry...I'm not going to throw myself off a bridge.  All the bridges in my area are so slick with ice, they're closed to foot traffic :)

So this week, I've decided I NEED to do something, both for sanity and prepping purposes...and canning beans seems to be the logical choice.  I have lots of beans, I have lots of empty jars and lots of free time on my hands.  Beans it is.

I try to keep a few cans of beans on hand at all times.  A can or two of black beans, a can of baked beans and a few cans of pork and beans are normally enough to sustain us.  Baked beans are a fast side dish or even a filling main dish.  Black beans make for great/quick wraps, burritos, enchiladas.  And pork and beans make a great baked beans and franks dish for cold, winter nights.   But recently the prices have really gone up.  Plain old, off-brand pork and beans are approaching a dollar a can and baked beans can easily run 2 bucks.  That's insane!  Time to can my own! 

The Ball Blue Book I won last fall  from Angela at Food Storage and Survival has a couple great recipes for home-canning beans.  There's a recipe for pork and beans, one for baked beans as well as instructions for canning plain old beans such as black and chickpeas.  The directions seem fairly straight-forward.  You sort your beans.  You soak your beans.  You boil/bake them for a certain amount of time.  You transfer them to a canning jar leaving an inch of head space.  You season them accordingly.  You cap them and  process them: generally 1hour 15 for pints and 1hour 30 for quarts (of course this varies depending on the recipe.  Follow the recipe!)  Yes, that's a long time to run the old pressure canner, but if the canner is full and I can come away with 8-9 quarts of beans, then I'm way ahead and I save a LOT of money in the long run.

What I love about the idea of canning dried beans is the ability to add/substitute the seasonings of my choice.  Garlic, onions and peppers go a long way towards spicing up a rather bland protein like beans.  Plus I don't have to worry about what various companies are adding to the beans, like HFCS, e. coli and mouse droppings.

Another reason to can beans is to encourage rotation of food stores.  While dried beans DO have a long shelf life, from what I read, after a few years the beans won't rehydrate.  So no matter how long you soak 'em, no matter how long you cook 'em, they simply won't soften up.  Canning is a great way to rotate dried beans out of your storage and into your daily meals.  Just replace what you home-can with a fresh supply of dried beans!

And lastly, home-canned beans are a great quick meal option.  If you live out in the boonies, home-canned meals like baked beans are a great 'fast food' option.  Let's face it...40 minutes to an hour for a round-trip to get a take out meal is NOT fast food.  And even with the addition of meats, brown sugar and sauces, home-canned beans are far more healthy than any deli meal you might pick up from the grocery.  But the best reason to can your own beans: it's a quick, filling meal when the power goes out and you can't spend hours cooking those dried, stored beans.  They can be eaten cold straight from the can or warmed over a chaffing dish or a camp stove.   

Pretty compelling reasons to can your own beans, wouldn't you say?  So I reiterate: beans it is!

Have you tried home-canning beans?

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Ed the Pilgrim said...

Next season see if you can find some dwarf horticultural beans, they`re a dying breed but worth the search. Raise your own and can them up, they keep forever that way. We`ve done it several times, it`s a bit of work but worht every bit of it! I have my own version of the Ball Blue Book (the canners bible if I have anything to say about it!). It`s a dog-eared version from back in the 40`s (my grandmothers) ,but all the reciepes still work today. This is one publication every prepper should own, it`s cheap, you can find them anywhere you get canning supplies, and it you follow the methods they outline, you can figure out how to preserve anything!

Andrea said...

I have my grandmother's Ball Blue Book as well...though not as old as your copy. It's priceless!

I've heard of dwarf horticultural beans but don't know anything about them. Are they different than plain old bush-habit beans?

Ed the Pilgrim said...

They`re just a regular bush type bean, but tend to be a very hardy type. We`ve grown them many times over the years,usually we plant a lot then have them stored up, they keep very well for long periods. The flavor is what we find better with these, they`ve been a family staple for longer than I`ve been around!

Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Andrea, Cute comment about the bridge!! ;) Glad they're too icy for ya!! I love having home caned beans on hand! And it's the easiest canning because there's no work you have to do beforehand (planting, growing, picking, etc). I know what you mean about the boring-ness of winter. It's wearing on me and I'm so eager for spring.

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