When it comes to canning, many people have heard the horror stories about exploding pressure cookers and are wary about the process. But this wonderful method of food preservation is quite easy if you follow some simple steps.
Unlike freezing, canning is not dependent on electricity. Jars just need a good seal and a cool, dark place to last for a few years. We are still eating squash and zucchini from a summer five years ago. The best way to learn how to preserve your own food is by watching someone do it once. And, there are a couple of methods, so pick the one that suits you best.
Here are fifteen steps to my method of canning green beans with a canner that holds 7 quart-sized jars (but always follow the instructions on your canner):
- Wash and prepare your vegetables.
- Sterilize the jars, bands and lids; I use the sterilize option on my dishwasher for the jars and dip the bands and lids in boiling water.
- Dry the bands and lids. Any water on the lid can prevent sealing.
- Fill your jars with packed vegetables and a teaspoon of salt.
- Add warm water to an inch below the top. I use boiled water.
- Wipe off the rim of the jar so water won’t prevent the lid from sealing.
- Put dry lids and bands on the jars.
- Put a quart of water and a tablespoon of vinegar inside the canner.
- Place filled jars inside canner and lock top into place.
- Set pressure to 15 pounds and turn heat on high.
- When the pressure valve jiggles, begin easing the heat down to medium and set your clock for 25 minutes.
- When the 25 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the canner cool.
- My canner lid won’t open until it’s cool enough, but err on the side of letting it cool longer so there’s no dangerous steam when you open it.
- Place jars on the kitchen counter and let them sit for 24 hours. Don’t touch the lids; this allows them the chance to seal naturally.
- There’s a pleasant little “plunk” when lids have sealed and you can see a slight depression in the lid. After 24 hours, use a sharpie to mark the year and take the canned jars to a cool, dark place for storage.
You can leave the bands on if you like, or you can remove them. If you remove them, they can be used again in the next canning, saving money. The band’s work is done after the lids are sealed.
The last step is to enjoy your summer’s work in the winter. When ready to eat, I always double check to make sure the lid is still sealed. If it pops when you touch the top, the seal is broken and the food is not safe to eat. If it is still depressed, then take a table knife and pry off the lid by turning the jar upside down over a colander. That way you won’t loose your green beans when the lid opens and the water comes rushing out. If the lid is easy to take off, it might not have sealed. It should be a little hard to pry off, indicating a good seal.
Drain all the canning water off and prepare the beans with seasoning. Most Kentucky cooks like fatback or a slice of country ham in their green beans. I opt for olive oil and organic chicken broth for a healthy, but just as tasty, alternative.
Angela Correll is the author of Grounded.