I am not a gardener, in fact, homesteading is something I am learning. I should maybe change the name of the blog to 3 Rafters Heritage Learning to Homestead! But anyway, I am not a gardener...yet. So I am pretty excited about our green bean crop this year.
I am also very new to canning. For the last couple years I have been canning green beans and pasta sauce. And this year I canned my first batch of peaches. I have plans to give beef stew and beef broth a try this year. With all that being said, I certainly do not feel qualified to offer a "how to" when when I comes to canning green beans. The next best thing I can offer is 5 Tips For Canning Green Beans. So here is what I would tell someone to prepare them for their first experience canning green beans:
Set Aside Plenty of Time
Canning green beans is a process and it is not a quick one, that's for sure! If you grow your own beans, first you have to harvest them, then you have to snap them (which in some ways is quite therapeutic). Then you prepare the jars, fill the jars, followed by filling the jars with boiling water. And then finally you actually can them in the pressure canner, which is probably the most time consuming part of the whole process. I like to harvest and snap my beans in the evening and then do the canning process the next morning. It breaks it up a bit and then I don't feel like I am committing a whole day to just canning.
Can When it is Cool
My mother-in-law taught me to can green beans. She was saying this year that she doesn't remember ever canning in July. But this year we started canning green beans at the end of July probably during the hottest week of the year. She doesn't have AC and neither do we. So this year, I have been getting up early to can while it is still cool outside to try and keep from heating the house up too much. It probably takes my pressure canner 20 minutes or more to heat up and get to pressure and then it must stay at pressure for 30 minutes for my pint jars, plus, I've had water boiling prior to fill my jars. A gas stove + 60 minutes or more on high = a lot of heat. The only way to do it is to start in the early morning or late in the evening when it cools down.
Respect the Pressure Canner
I kind of prefer water bath canning but I think the only reason is because I'm not afraid of it. Have you ever seen those pictures of pressure canner lids that blew off the pot, tore a hole through the hood vent and was then lodged in the ceiling? I have and they terrified me. My first season of canning beans had me a nervous wreck, hovering around the stove top to make sure I didn't blow the kitchen up. But each year I have become more comfortable with the pressure canner. This year was the first year I legitimately didn't break out in a cold sweat when I got the canner down off the shelf. My advice is to keep the instruction book and read through it each season. Keep at it, keep practicing. Like with anything, practice makes perfect and brings confidence and familiarity.
Make sure you have the tools
You cannot do this chore without the proper tools. Besides the jars, lids, rings and canner, you need to have a funnel. This makes filling the jars with beans much quicker and pouring the boiling water much simpler (you also should have a ladle for that). You also must have a jar lifter for putting your jars in to the warm water of the pressure canner and again for removing them from the hot, hot water after processing. You will additionally need a magnetic lid lifter. I boil my lids before placing them on my jars and this handy little tool just grabs them from the boiling water easy as pie. I didn't have one of these for a couple seasons, so I used tongs, which got the job done, but not without a couple of burnt finger tips. It was ridiculous how excited I was when I finally bought one of these for myself.
Keep a Close Eye on the Pressure Gage
I can my green beans in pint jars, so they go in the pressure canner at ten pounds pressure for thirty minuets. If you drop below ten pounds at any time, you must get back to pressure and start your time over again. And believe me, there is nothing more frustrating when you are canning than if you have to start your time over again. Especially when it is hot and you've already put in almost an hour around a hot stove - trust me and pay close attention to that pressure gage.
Canning is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. Growing your own food, bringing your harvest in and preserving it so you have delicious home grown food all year round makes me feel proud and knowing where my food came from makes me feel much more secure. It is work, but it's worth it; keep at it and keep practicing, you won't regret it! Happy Canning!