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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How many beans make a bushel?

I have seen a couple of public service announcements lately about canning classes being offered in different communities.  I think it has a relationship with the movement to cleaner, healthier, more wholesome eating and the fact that I am seeing more and more backyard gardens.

We have enjoyed canning and freezing vegetables and fruits for years.  I cannot remember a single year going by that my mother didn't make some sort of jam or jelly or preserves.  Mike says it is the same in his historical thinking about his family.  In fact, I have my mother's pressure canner, my Granny's pressure canner, and Mike's grandmother's pressure canner in my basement kitchen as I am pecking out this post.

I borrowed Mama's canner because Mike came in the house with two bushels of green beans!  (We haven't had a chance to test out Mike's grandmother's canner to make sure it is still safe to use after many years of setting idle.)

A couple of weekends ago, I had two canners rocking and shishing and steaming at the same time!

I don't know if you have an idea of how many green beans it takes to make up a bushel.  Let me tell you - it takes a LOT of beans!

I think the hardest part is breaking them up into bite-sized pieces.  Maybe that is because my hands ache and cramp from just normal usage but holding and snapping beans really takes a toll on me.  So, Mike snapped each and every bean.  What a guy!

I think the TV western channel played for 48 hours non-stop.  Marshall Dillon, The Virginian, The Cartwrights, and The Barkleys joined the Duke in providing company to Mike while he merrily snapped bean after bean!  Then, my efforts were required.

First I would dump a large bowl of bite-sized beans into the sink and fill it with water.  Then, I swished them around a bit to begin washing the pieces to make sure that all the soil, bits of leaves, etc. were loosened and easy to rinse away.

Then, handful by handful, I would rinse them in clear water and drop them into a colander to drain.

The next step was to pack them into sterile jars.  I run my canning jars through the dishwasher because it has a cycle that sterilizes them.  Next, I place them into the oven set on 200 degrees to keep them hot.  I would remove a cookie sheet holding several jars.

Using my canning funnel, I filled each jar as full as I possibly could get it, shaking the jar and pushing beans down a bit to get one last handful into it.  The jars need to be as full as possible without having beans touching the lids.

Because I wanted low-sodium green beans, I sprinkled a half-teaspoon into each jar, measuring carefully.

I worked in batches of fourteen jars because each of my canners will hold seven jars at a time.

Next, I added a teaspoon of apple-cider vinegar to each jar.  I don't know why this ingredient is important but my Granny always did that and I do, too!

The next step was to fill each jar up to the mouth with boiling water and slide a plastic spoon handle down the side of the jar and give it a little wiggle to encourage all the air bubbles to float to the top so there would only be an air pocket in the mouth of the jar.  I think this is important to prevent breakage during the pressure canning process.

While I was filling the jars with water, I had my lids in a small pan of steaming water in preparation for adding them to tops of the jars.

As I got a batch of jars filled with water, I would add lids to each.

Then a screw-top was attached to each, tightening only till it was finger-tight.

Next, I trekked down the steps with seven jars and loaded each of the canners.  (I cheated a wee bit and had the water in each canner heating so that it wouldn't take quite as long after adding the jars of beans for the water to come to a boil in the canner to provide the steam pressure which processed the beans and caused the jars to seal.)

Once each canner was loaded with seven jars, I attached the top and let it go to work.

The old-fashioned, basement stove with the coil heating elements seem to work better with the canner than my glass-topped stove-top that is upstairs.  So, that is the primary reason that the actual canning takes place downstairs.

It is easy to hear when the canner seals and the little top pressure regulator starts to jiggle and the steam starts to shish-shish-shish.  I left the jars processing in the pressure canner for twenty minutes after the canner sealed and the regulator began to jiggle just as my Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving book suggested.

Then, I removed the canner from the heat and let it cool before removing the lid, lifting out the jars to cool, and starting the process all over again.  Almost immediately the lids began pinging to indicate they were sealing.

Together, Mike and I canned 52 quarts and 3 pints of green beans.  I'm telling you, two bushels is a LOT of green beans.  Everybody might get a jar of beans in their Christmas stocking this year!

Other things I learned from this experience:

  1. Two bushels is a lot of beans.
  2. Do all the prep work downstairs instead of running up and down the stairs.
  3. Two bushels is a lot of beans.
  4. Don't tackle this project the weekend before you go back to school and work long hours and through the weekend for two weeks without a day off.
  5. Two bushels is a lot of beans.
  6. Don't tackle this project after you have spent the week freezing squash and peaches and making peach preserves.
  7. Two bushels is a lot of beans.
  8. I may be getting a little too old to do this kind of thing in bulk like that.
Mainly, I know all this because two bushels is a lot of beans!