There are two main things you need to know about canning legumes. The first is that they’re only safe to can in a pressure canner (not a water bath canner) since they’re low-acid foods. And second, dry beans and peas need to be rehydrated by soaking in water before they’re packed into jars. Lentils don’t need to be presoaked. Peanuts will need to be soaked, but the process is a little different.
I know you can find recipes on the Internet that don’t include soaking the beans or peas, but they’re not approved methods. When you don’t presoak the dried beans and peas, you run the risk of them soaking up all the water and becoming a big clump of beans. There’s no way to tell if the heat penetrates the center of the clump to make them shelf stable. The beans and peas can also swell so much that they break the jar. There’s nothing more depressing than opening up the canner and finding broken jars.
There are two ways to soak beans: the overnight method and the quick-soak method. For both methods, you need to wash the beans or peas and remove any small pebbles that might be mixed in with them.
For the overnight method: Put the cleaned beans in a large bowl or stockpot and add 10 cups (2.4 L) of water per 1 pound (454 g) of beans or peas. Cover the bowl or pot and put it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
For the quick-soak method: Put the cleaned beans in a large stockpot and add 10 cups (2.4 L) of water per one pound (454 g) of beans or peas. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Let the beans soak for 1 hour.
Photo by Imfoto, Shutterstock.
I prefer to use the overnight method for soaking legumes as I think there is less issue with the legumes splitting and the skins coming off. I also think it’s more hands-off than the quick-soak method; however, if I’ve forgotten to soak the legumes the night before, I’ll happily use the quick-soak method so that I can get the canning done that I’d planned for that day.
Every once in a while, someone will ask me about canning sprouted legumes, ones that have been soaked long enough that they start to germinate. The official answer is that there are no approved guidelines or processing times for canning sprouted legumes. In my opinion, the extra nutrition that’s gained by soaking legumes would be destroyed by the high heat of the pressure canner. Also, the enzymes that cause digestibility issues are water soluble, which means they’ll leach out during they soak and that water will be discarded.
If you’re extra sensitive to the digestive effects of legumes, use the overnight soak method and change the water several times.
How to Can Legumes
Once the beans have been cleaned and soaked, they’re ready for canning. To keep things simple, I’m going to just use beans as the example, but know that peas and lentils are canned the exact same way. The instructions below are an overview on canning legumes.
On average, 1 pound (454 g) of dried beans will give you about 7 cups (1.2 kg) of cooked beans. This is a very rough estimate and the actual amount will depend on the size and shape of the bean. You’ll need three or four 1-pint (500-ml) jars or two 1-quart (1-L) jars to pressure can a pound of dried beans. This should help you estimate how many jars you need to prepare.
Pour off the water that the beans were soaking in and give the beans a quick rinse with fresh water. Drain again. Put the beans into a large stockpot and cove with fresh water. Heat the beans over medium-high heat and gently boil for 30 minutes. The beans will not be fully cooked by the time they’re done boiling; they’ll finish cooking in the jars while being processed.
While the beans are boiling, prepare the pressure canner, jars and lids. Wash the inside of the pressure canner and the rack with hot, soapy water. Place the rack in the pressure canner and fill it with a few inches (8 cm) of water, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the canner on the stovetop and heat the water over medium heat.
Wash the lids in hot, soapy water and set aside. Check the instructions on the box of lids; some manufacturers (Bernardin®) recommend that the lids be placed in boiled water to keep them hot and some manufacturers recommend that the lids simply be washed (Ball®).
When the beans are finished boiling, it’s time to remove the hot jars from the canner and pour out any water that is in the jars. Don’t dry the jars; the water remnants will evaporate quickly.
Turn the heat off from under the beans and ladle them into the jars, leaving a generous 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace. Don’t discard the water the beans cooked in, as that will become the broth to fill the jars with. I like to use a slotted spoon and evenly distribute all the beans between the jars before adding the broth; this way I don’t end up with a jar with very little beans in the end.
You can add ½ teaspoon of non-iodized salt per 1-pint (500-ml) jar and 1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt per 1-quart (1-L) jar and any dried herbs at this point, if desired.
When the beans are distributed, ladle the bean broth into each jar, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace. Using a bubble remover tool remove the air bubbles from the jars. Recheck the headspace, adding more broth if necessary. If you run out of broth, top the jars off with boiling water.
Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth and add the lids and bands. Tighten the bands to finger-tight, like you would a mayonnaise jar. Place the jars in the prepared pressure canner and lock the lid in place. Process the jars at 10 psi (69 kPa) for 75 minutes for 1-pint (500-ml) jars and 90 minutes for 1-quart(1-L) jars, adjusting for altitude if necessary.
Photo by Lost_in_the_Midwest, Shutterstock.
Be sure to let the canner vent for 10 minutes and fully come up to the correct pressure before you start timing.
When the beans are finished processing, turn off the heat and allow the canner to naturally depressurize. This will take 30 to 60 minutes. Refer to the instructions that came with your canner.
Once the pressure canner has depressurized, lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter to set the jars on. Remove the weight from the vent opening or open the petcock and let the canner sit for 10 minutes before opening the lid. This keeps the liquid in the jars from surging and the lids from being compromised.
When you remove the canner lid, open it away from your face to avoid the blast of steam. Let the jars sit in the canner for another 5 minutes before removing them.
Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canner and place them on the prepared towel to cool. Leave at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the jars. Let them cool for 12 to 24 hours and then check the seals. If everything has sealed, the jars are ready to be stored away. Use home-canned legumes within one year. If any jars failed to seal, put them in the refrigerator to use within a week.
Butter Beans and Ham
In the South, mature white lima beans are often called “butter beans.” Creamy butter beans and ham are a classic Southern comfort food. And if you want creamy butter beans, you have to cook them long and slow and stir them often…or you can just pressure can them. These can be served as a side dish or as the main dish by serving them with a pan of corn bread.
Yields 14 (1-Pint [500-ml]) or 7 (1-Quart [1-L]) Jars
Ingredients: 2 lbs (907 g) dried mature lima beans (aka butter beans), presoaked*
8 cups (1.9 L) water
1 lb (454 g) diced ham
2 cups (320 g) chopped onions**
7 bay leaves
*The beans need to be soaked using the overnight or quick-soak method before beginning this recipe.
**You’ll need approximately 3/4pound (340 g) unprepared onions.
Instructions: Prepare the pressure canner, jars and lids. You’ll need 14 (1-pint[500-ml]) or 7 (1-quart [1-L]) jars. Fill the canner with a few inches(8 cm) of water, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and put the canner on the stove over low heat with the jars inside to stay hot.This is a hot-pack recipe, so the water needs to be about 180°F (82°C).
Drain the water from the soaking beans and put the beans into the stockpot with 8 cups (1.9 L) of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Boil for 30 minutes.
The beans will not be fully cooked by the time they’re done boiling; they’ll finish cooking in the jars while being processed.
Remove the beans from the heat, and using a slotted spoon, put them into the prepared jars. Divide the ham and onions between the jars. Add1/2bay leaf to each 1-pint (500-ml) jar and 1 bay leaf to each1-quart (1-L) jar.
Fill each jar with the water used for cooking the beans, leaving 1 inch(2.5 cm) of headspace. Remove the bubbles with a bubble removal tool and recheck the headspace. If you end up short of broth, top the jars off with boiling water. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth. Put the lids and bands on the jars and load them into the pressure canner.
Process the jars, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, at 10 psi(69 kPa) for 75 minutes for 1-pint (500-ml) jars and 90 minutes for1-quart (1-L) jars, adjusting for altitude if necessary.
After processing, allow the canner to depressurize naturally, then remove the jars and let them cool on the counter for at least 12 hours. Check the seals and store the jars for up to 1 year.
For serving, empty a jar of Butter Beans and Ham into a medium stock pot and heat over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is bubbling and the beans are heated thoroughly, stirring frequently.Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve with a side of corn bread or biscuits.
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