Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt Poynette, WI
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Reporting Live from a Hill of Beans

Reporting Live from a Hill of Beans
January 21, 2010 Mary Jo

We are literally swimming in beans.  Or at least one of us is.

Black turtle beans.  Pinto beans.  Cannellini beans.  All organic, bought in 25 lb bulk bags.  That’s 75 lbs of beans.  Looks like I’ve got me a couple of projects.

I must have foreseen this hill of beans when I picked up a ginormous pressure canner at a rummage sale last summer.  It seemed like a wise investment into our future, so I snatched it up, kissed it on the forehead, and tucked it into bed on the shelves of the basement root cellar, right next to the smaller version canner, inherited from the other Mrs. B.

The pinto beans were the first to emigrate to Five Green Acres.  I received them with much fanfare and welcome, knowing full well that our days of paying $1.50 – $2.50 for a can of organic beans were in the past, sorry suckers.  Ok – I must digress now and say that this talk about the high cost of canned beans makes me feel really, really old.  It also reminds me of the time I visited my Grandpa and was presented with a whole flat of canned peas that he had bought by the truckload, practically, because the price was so unbelievably great.  I will forever remember him grinning ear to ear, so pleased with his shopping prowess, displaying that elfish, impish grin that he’s now bequeathed to my son.  I thought he was crazy then, (and very old) but I totally get it now.  Sigh.  Miss you Grampa.

I cooked a whole crock pot worth of pintos, with the intention of then filling the jars and processing them in the pressure canner.  Using my handy Ball book of preserving, newly acquired at Christmas, I read over the instructions, scratched my head, reread them, read them aloud, then read them again.  Wait – did I not have to fully cook the beans before canning them?  Better do a quick internet search.  No. Way.  Really??!!??!!  I just get them boiling, (if I wish) load up the jars, and cook in the pressure canner while simultaneously killing the bacteria for safe canning and THAT’S IT?  I was floored.  Is this common knowledge that I missed somewhere along the way?  Regardless, that little tidbit of info painted a rainbow over my head as I ran to my grocery list and added ‘Black Beans’ and ‘Cannellini’ in big block letters, followed by ‘in BULK!’

I had read somewhere, some time ago, that cooking beans with a small piece of kombu seaweed was a good way to add some trace minerals and also offset some of the more negative digestive tagalongs, namely gas.  Seaweed is a pantry staple for us.  Having learned of its merits in my herbal studies, we found that we love it.  We get it here.

I filled each pint jar about 2/3 – 3/4 full of beans that had reached a boil.  They’d expanded a bit, but not filling the jars to the brim allowed room for more expansion as they cooked further.  To each jar I then added 1/2 t of salt (which you could omit) and a 1/2″ piece of kombu.  I topped each off with some warm water, filling to the bottom of the jar’s rim, allowing the appropriate headspace, then stirred to remove trapped air bubbles.  The lids were applied per the instructions, and those little sweeties were packed into the pressure canners.

The end result was so promising.  The beans were cooked, but retaining their shape so much better than crock pot cooking allows.  My only concern is that the level of liquid in the sealed jars is low.  There were some issues at first with getting a proper seal on the canner (faulty gasket), so it’s possible the liquid escaped then, or maybe it also was absorbed by the expanding beans.  Should I be worried about this?  Should I do anything differently for the 60-odd pounds of beans yet to can?  I’d love any feedback you preserving mavens might have.

Also on the docket is refried beans.  I’ll be using this book as a starting point.

And beans make a perfect plaything for the kids, with their tactile and visual deliciousness.  Non-toxic, too, (organic!) if a few end up in the mouth.  We’ll likely see some again tomorrow during diaper changing time.  The perfect toy, I say, unless you have a problem with a million little things scattered on every surface in your home.  I just might have a problem with that. Edited:  Forget that.  Beans are a horrible, horrible toy.  What a mess.

(it seemed disingenuous to post all the happy-shiny pics without also illuminating the dirty reality)

And I’m off for a crafty sew-’em-if-you-got-’em retreat up North.  See you back here next week, with a full report.

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