If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Green Bean Scene

We have been the Green Bean Scene for the past couple or three days.  Mike and I trekked to Mennonite country on Saturday morning and bought a few vegetables.  He really enjoyed the hunting, bargaining, and dickering and I enjoyed the scenery and time spent with him.  Plus, it has been so hot here that we didn't really want to do anything productive around here and we are the outdoorsy type.

We came home with some blueberries, cabbage, corn, bell peppers, and green beans.  Did we ever come home with some green beans!  We brought home thirty-nine pounds of green beans!  So, late Saturday afternoon, Mike began to break all those beans.  He had brought in some squash from our poor little cooked plot just above the barn and I cut it up, added some onions from our table tubs, and started it to boil for a suppertime squash casserole.  As soon as he had a mess broken, I snatched them up and put them on to cook for supper as well.  Knowing that Bryan and Jessica were coming by for a visit, I laid out some pork chops to thaw and stirred up a peach cobbler.  Then, I began gathering supplies for canning the green beans. 

When Jessica and Bryan arrived, Jess quickly shucked some of the corn and Bryan went to work seasoning and wrapping it to cook on the grill.  Then, Jessica joined Mike in the bean breaking.  I was in the throes of blanching my first pot of beans for canning.  I had never done this step before because I usually just raw pack them into the jars.  I'll be interested to see if we notice a difference. 

I trooped downstairs to get the canner started and while Mike and Jessica continued to break the beans, Bryan and I prepped the supper.  Bryan served as master griller.  He just kept muttering, "pressure, pressure, pressure," and I didn't understand why until much later when they presented Mike with his Father's Day gift and the card indicated that Mike is the griller around here.  Just before supper was ready, I turned off the heat to the canner and let it begin to cool. 

We feasted on a delicious summertime, southern meal of grilled pork chops and corn on the cob, fresh green beans, squash casserole, cucumber/onion salad, home-made pickles, and had peach cobbler for dessert.  It was a wonderful evening of fellowship, food, and fun.  Well, I guess they had fun breaking the beans because Jessica and Mike wound up breaking the entire bag!  I only completed one canner-full that night.  We put the rest of the beans into the fridge downstairs.  Then, I did another canner-full yesterday afternoon.  Today has been serious canning time and I have finished them off.  Here is how I did that:

First, wash the broken beans thoroughly.  I soak them in a sink of cool water and rinse them under cool running water before placing them in a colander to drain.  Next, I begin to fill the jars, shaking them to pack the jars as full as possible without mashing the beans.
Then, sprinkle a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar over the top.  I remember helping Mama when she canned beans and after breaking the beans, sprinkling the salt is about the only job I was qualified to do!

Next, pour boiling water over this to fill the jar.  Run a wooden or plastic spoon handle down the side of the jar in a couple or three places to encourage the air bubbles to float to the top.  Attach the two-piece jar lids.  Then, troop downstairs to the canner.

I have to use the downstairs stove for the canner because the flat-topped-glass stove I have upstairs doesn't work to heat the canner quite as well for some reason.  The older model with the coils seems to work well for this task, though.

Place the jars into the canner and add three to four inches of water to the canner.  (I usually do this when I begin to fill my jars and turn the stove eye on to begin heating that water to save some processing time.)  Attach the canner lid and turn the eye on high heat to bring the water to a boil and build up steam pressure in the canner. 

If you look closely you can see the steam rising out of the top-most point of the canner in the photo above.  When there is a good steady rise of steam with a strong ssshhh-ing sound, the canner is near readiness for processing. 

This is when the "jiggler" should be added which regulates the amount of pressure that is maintained.  For green beans, it is recommended to maintain ten pounds of pressure for twenty-five minutes.  After a minute or two, the jiggler will start to rock back and forth and the sound of the steam escaping will become a steady ssshhh, ssshhh, ssshhh.  I set the timer for twenty-five minutes and find a task to do - washing dishes, folding clothes, ironing, reading a good book, etc. 

In the photo above, the jiggler is rocking and the steam is ssshhh-ing at a steady rhythm.  At the end of twenty-five minutes, I turn off the heat and remove the jiggler to allow the canner to cool and release the built-up pressure.  After fifteen to twenty minutes, the top can be removed and the jars can be set on a towel on the counter.
The beans will have changed from a brilliant emerald green to a softer, more olive tint and the liquid in the jars will probably still be boiling.  I let the jars and the canner cool completely.  Then, I wipe off the outside of the jars and place them in the pantry to await a nice southern, country meal.  Yum!

So far we have about thirty-five quarts of green beans processed and there is still enough for another meal to cook fresh.  I guess we will share a few jars with Bryan and Jessica since she helped to break them all up.  Of course, quality control might mean I need to limit what she and Mike have earned through their efforts.  Notice what I found when I was washing the beans:
Quality Control

Do you think I should dock their pay?  I found all these ends mixed with the good beans. 
(Actually, that isn't bad considering how many they touched that afternoon/evening!)