Aug 22, 2010

Confessions of an amateur canner part 2

Last year I blogged about my first experience canning peaches-the stress, the phone calls home to my mother, the unkind feelings I had towards my husband while he was off hunting leaving me with a baby and a sink full of peaches to try and bottle. Well this year has brought a new set of firsts-my first experience with a pressure canner. Let me just say that I have wanted a pressure canner for a while, and I grew up around one but I have been scared to death of it since I got it last Christmas and haven't dared to even try it. But beans were my motivation (my little girls love beans). I have a ton of dry pinto beans that I need to do something with. I have posted before my lack of success with cooking them into anything more than a crunchy bean mess so when my friend and a neighbor told me it was super easy to can dry beans with a pressure canner I knew I had to conquer my fears.
So first you have to soak your beans overnight. My instructions told me about 3 pounds of dry beans. My beans are in a large bucket and I had no way of knowing how much 3 pounds was (hence the need for a kitchen scale for Christmas hint hint) so I just put a bunch in a pot and covered them with water. Well I think I overestimated. They just kept growing and growing and soon filled a second pot and soon filled a large metal bowl as well. Oops. Next you have to rinse your beans and cover them with fresh water and bring them to a boil and boil for 30 minutes. If you have ever boiled dry beans you may know that they make this lovely foam stuff-that tends to boil over when your pot is as full as mine was which by the way when burned onto your burner smells just like cigarette smoke. After your 30 minutes is up you put a 1/2 tsp of salt into pint jars (1 tsp of salt if you are using quarts) fill jars with beans and cooking liquid, adjust lids and process in pressure canner for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs pressure for my altitude (you would want to check and see what pressure you would use where you live). So I got my first batch in my canner and put the canner lid on and turned up my heat and read and reread my instruction manual 4 times. I was to let the canner vent steam for 10 minutes. I watch vigilantly for the steam, set the timer and keep a very close eye to make sure the steam is "steady" as my manual tells me. Then I am supposed to place my pressure gauge on top, increase my heat and wait for the gauge to "start a gentle rocking motion". This probably makes total sense to the people who wrote the manual to go with the pressure canner but to a first timer like myself I had no idea what I was looking for, how long it would take to get there or what to expect my canner to do along the way. As the pressure was building I swear that silver pot looked like it was going to take off and shoot around the room out of control at any minute. It was spitting water, steaming, sounding like it was ready to blast off. I finally had to call my mom to get some reassurance. She wasn't able to help me know if it was in fact ready to explode or totally normal over the phone but it did take my mind off it long enough for me to stop watching my "pot boil" and when I turned around to look again sure enough the pressure gauge was rocking gently, the canner did not shoot off into the backyard nor outer space and after 75 minutes and the proper cool down time I was left with these beauties:
Well this is after 2 canner loads, with a third one taking it's turn in the silver rocket (my new affectionate name for my pressure canner) as I took the picture. Turns out it really is pretty easy-once you understand the tricks of the trade.
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