Two Pressure Canners (and inventorying the freezer and root cellar)

When I closed my shops, everything went into my basement.  I am slowly swimming my way out of it.  I set up a homestead shelf in the root cellar and organized the things I had brought home from my not-so-popular homestead shop.  With this lifestyle, I will use them or use them up at some point.  Soap making supplies, extra boxes of canning supplies, cheese presses, and loads of candles are carefully organized on shelves so that I can see what I have.  I now have two canners and two pressure canners, which really came in handy yesterday.

Now is a good time to empty your freezer and take stock of what you have and what has been lingering for years and what needs to be replenished this gardening season.  Out went several bags of way-too-spicy peppers and half opened this and thats.  Into the ginormous soup pot went all the frozen veggies and odds and ends that I had saved; wilted celery, a few carrots, ends of onions, and all the bags of frozen veggies I thought we would eat; eggplant, Brussels sprouts, green peppers.  Some things are better fresh.  Some herbs and salt and pepper and two hours of simmering later, I had a beautiful vegetable broth waiting to be canned.

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20 pint jars of aromatic liquid were put up.  Usually I would take all day to wait for the canner to come to pressure, can the jars, wait for the pressure to come down, and then do it all again.  With two canners, it was done so fast that I am looking forward to canning season!  I really boosted my production while saving time with just one more pot.  The extra six cups of broth from the pot went into the fridge to use in recipes this week.  A pressure canner fits 10 pint jars or 9 quart jars.  I never freeze broth.  It takes up too much room and I will never remember to take it out in time for supper.

This is a great time to start your canning.  Get some stocks and beans done now on rainy days and before the rush of summer veggies and fruits.  While you are at it, take stock of your root cellar items too.  Start eating some of those canned foods and make room for new ones.  A full cellar is a thing of great comfort and joy!  And it turns out, a second canner is too.

How to Make Broth (and for the record, we have thus far failed at eating roosters and Bob is quite safe here.)

How to Can Beans

Canning Before Summer (Beans…mmm)

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Now’s the time for canning!  It is cold outdoors and the stove practically calls for the steam from a pressure cooker to ease the dry air.  Pity the tomatoes in the garden aren’t done….oh wait, the ground is covered in snow, no tomatoes.  There is plenty of canning to do, however, and as farmgirls we’d be wise to get some of it done.  Stews and soups can be canned right now.  They become leftovers for next fall when time runs short and dinner wants to be served!  What I love to have canned are beans.  I made the error of canning quarts and pints galore of pinto, black, kidney, and Anasazi beans in the same hot kitchen as the corn, green beans, and other items being stocked in the root cellar.  I needed them, so I suppose it wasn’t a waste. But it sure was hot and it took up valuable summer vegetable canning time. I am down to my last two jars of kidney beans (apparently our last choice for beans) and now I realize that this is the time to can beans!  I could get several quarts and pints put up and they will take me through to the cooler days of Autumn.

I love having the canned beans at the ready.  I have good intentions but often I forget that I teach herbalism classes and dance classes a few evenings a week and things come up and the two to three hour boil on the stove for beans doesn’t always transpire.  Besides being settled into a toxic can in the store for God knows how long, organic beans are expensive and the cute fifteen ounces seems ridiculous after you turn a bag of organic beans into quarts of beans!  For the very same price of a can of beans one can get a bag of organic beans. More money left over for seed potatoes and new grandbaby clothes!

You just need one snow day to get it all done; it is so easy.  As vegetarians, beans are a staple in this house.  As a New Mexican food junkie, quite necessary.  And white beans are a mouthwatering addition to Italian soups and homemade pastas.  Sweet, smoky baked beans and hot crisp bread….ok, I am making myself hungry, on to the lesson!

(Adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving….changed for our altitude)

2 1/4 pounds of dried beans is the suspected measurement to make one quart but I always come up a little short or have too much for exactly even pints or quarts.  Anything that doesn’t fill a jar gets turned into tonight’s supper.

Soak by covering beans with a few inches of water, bring to boil for a few minutes then turn off heat and let sit for an hour or so.  Drain, rinse.

Put beans back in pot and cover with a few inches of cold water and bring to boil.  Boil for about 30 minutes.

Pack hot beans and liquid (high altitude means you will need a little extra water than what is in the pot) into prepared canning jars leaving one inch head space.  Run a knife around the sides to get rid of excess air bubbles.  One could, if they were so inclined, slide in a sprig or rosemary, a bit of sage, or a pinch of chipotle powder.  Add 1 ts of salt to quarts and 1/2 ts of salt to pints. (I only use good sea salt)

When the beans are ready to go, place jars in large pressure cooker filled with four inches of water (now, don’t be afraid; the new pressure cookers do not explode!), replace lid.  In high altitude, use 15 lbs of pressure and when the top starts a tickin’ (it sounds like a good Latin music vibe, start shaking your hips), time it for 1 hr and 22 min for pints or 1 hr 37 min for quarts.

Let that puppy cool down before opening the lid.  Let all steam escape and warm up your house.  Place jars on counter to cool and listen to the soothing ‘pop, pop’ of the lids while visions of Huevos Rancheros, White bean and Sage soup, and Cajun Red beans and Rice dance through your head.

I just label the lid with a sharpie with what I put in them and the date.  They are good for a year at least.  You’ll eat them up much faster though!

Enjoy!