August 30, 2015

Dried Bean Challenge, Part 2

I posted a canning tutorial on A View from The Cottage a few months ago, so for step by step direction on how to can beans go to the above link. I thought I would go into a little more detail here at Prepper's Pantry and add some other ideas for how you can use your long term storage bean in the 3 month pantry and for non electric situations.

In Part One of this Dried Bean challenge post, I was using a bucket of beans from my long term storage, and replacing what I used with a new bag of beans to put in LTS mylar and the bucket I just emptied. So I will pick up from that point.

I carefully cut the mylar bag open, (but if you are just starting out then open your purchased bag of beans), and pour the beans into large dish pans, pick through, and rinse the beans and then cover them with water to soak overnight. I then could wipe the inside of the mylar bag with a dry cloth, peel the label off the outside of the bucket and store both for reuse at another time, I can usually get 2 sometimes 3 uses out of a mylar bag, and an infinite number of uses out of the buckets since I treat them carefully when opening and store out of the light and heat), or in this case I will reuse the bucket, use an new mylar bag and save the opened bag for a smaller quantity of food another time.

Having soaked the beans over night, the next morning I get my equipment together: the pressure canner, (beans are a low acid food and must be canned under pressure to make sure they are safe to eat), canning tools, like funnels, lifting tongs, chop stick, ladle, spoon, clean cloth. The canning jars I will put the beans in and the bands, I consider start up costs for pantry keeping and are reusable, so I don't add them to the cost of the beans, but I do factor the flat part of the lids into the cost of the beans, since they can't be used for canning again once they have sealed. The first time or two that you can using a pressure canner, it may feel like a lot of work and a little scary, but that is just because it is new to you. Being able to can at home can save you lots of money and allows you to preserve your garden produce and make your own canned goods of your favorite recipes. I recommend that you get a Ball Blue Book to refer to for canning times and to get some ideas for recipes. If you follow the directions and use good sanitation, you can stock your pantry with all kinds of safe to eat, delicious foods that you made yourself.

I will interrupt myself for a minute and address a few things about pressure canning... ***Practically everyone has a horror story told by their grandma about the pressure canner blowing its lid on the stove. Well, I was witness to one case of that myself as a child, the lid left its impression in the ceiling for as long as I can remember... but it was a pressure cooker, not a canner, as most of the stories were probably about. With a pressure cooker, it is possible to clog the pressure release with foods that boiled up too high in the pot, or that was left with the heat too high, and in the old pressure cookers there was no emergency release plug. But today in both canners and cookers, there is a hard rubber plug that will blow out if the pressure builds too high. and there is a locking mechanism that comes into play when the pressure inside the pot reaches a certain level, at that point until the pot cools down, there is no way to unlock the pot. The lid is not going to blow off. But if you were gifted your great grandma's cooker or canner and it was made before the safety measures were put into place, I would use it as a flower pot or salvage it for its aluminum value and buy an new model. 

Now where was I...The black beans will go into large kettles on the stove and boil them on medium high for 30 minutes. I will use pint size jars, (the size of the jar will vary with the type of item I am canning). While the beans are cooking, I put all the jars through a sterilization cycle on the dishwasher, or put them on a tray in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes to sterilize the jars. I put the flat part of the two part lids in a small pan of water simmer it until needed.When the beans have boiled for 30 minutes, I move them off the stove and put the pressure canner on the stove. I place the rack that will keep the jars off the bottom of the pan in the canner and fill with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of water and turn the heat on high to heat the water. This water is what will make the steam that processes the jars under pressure. Next, I line the jars on the counter, (put a towel down on the counter first if the jars aren't on a tray, so that the cold counter won't shatter a hot jar), put a wide mouth funnel in a jar and fill with beans , draining most of the liquid off before ladling the beans in the jars. I fill the jars to the bottom of the neck of a regular mouth jar and to the last ring thread on a wide mouth jar, which will leave about 1 inch of head space in the top of the jar. Then I add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to each jar and ladle cooking liquid in to just cover the beans. Wiping each jar rim thoroughly with a clean damp cloth, will assure that the lids will adhere properly and seal tight after canning, so wipe the rims, place the flat part of the lid on the jar and then place the band on. The band should just be just finger tight, if you crank the lid down too tight it could cause the jars to burst under pressure, and if it is too lose it might not seal, so twist the band on and when you begin to feel resistance, go a little tighter then stop. To check to see if it is tightened properly, unscrew one of the jars, if it is hard to turn the lid off then it is too tight.

***This is important*** If during the canning process, the pressure drops below 10 psi, you must start the processing over again. The beans must be processed at 10 psi for 1hour and 15 minutes for pints and 1 hour and 30 minutes for quarts. If the pressure drops below the recommended psi, it creates an environment for botulism to grow. When the time is up, turn off the heat, and leave the weight on the pressure spout; if you remove it  under pressure, you can be seriously burned and ruin a whole pot of food. It is important to allow the canner to naturally, completely cool. Do not try to speed up the process by running the canner under water or using wet towel to cool it, a sudden change in temperature will draw all the liquid out of your jars into the canner and them probably won't seal. Really, just go do something else while the canner cools... 

Once the metal stopper has dropped and the pressure gauge is not showing any pressure, you can carefully remove the weight from the pressure spout and then take the lid off the canner. Use the tongs to take the jars out of the canner. Lift them straight up, don't tip to one side to drain the water off the lids, the lids are not sealed yet and the contents are will still be boiling for awhile, place the jars on a towel on the counter and leave to cool. As the jars cool, you will hear them seal. It is quite a lovely sound... sh-h-tink! I used to lay in bed after an evening of canning  jelly and go to sleep to the sound of sealing lids... It is really best to stay with the jars if the foods are low acid, since they will need to be refrigerated immediately if they don't seal, but for things like jelly, if it doesn't seal, it won't go bad overnight, so I worry less about it. Once the jars are all cooled and sealed, remove the bands, clean the body and neck of the jars with soapy water to assure there is no food residue on them, (if there was any food siphoned out of the jars during processing... it happens...), and label and date the jars. Do not return the bands to the jars, they stack better without them and can be reused to keep costs down, they are just needed for holding the flat lid on during processing. I do keep a few bands around so that once the jars is opened I can hold the lid on in the fridge if I don't use it all. At this point you have jars of home made food that you can use at a moments notice, no having to soak dried beans and cook them before you can prepare a meal. This way you have a stock of beans in your long term storage, and a working supply in your three month pantry that is ready to use. So with a couple bags of beans you have created a long term supply and months of ready to use for your 3 month pantry..

Now for some bonus pointers...

 In the initial distribution of 2-10 lb. bag of beans, 7 lbs. went into long term storage in mylar and a bucket, and 3 pounds remained for another use, I added the 3 left over pounds from the first bag of beans to the other 10 lb. bag of beans and soaked all of them over night and then cooked them for 30 minutes so that I could can 20 pints of beans. After completing the 20 pints of canned beans, I cooked the remaining beans until they were completely done. I reserved half of the cooked beans to make Caribbean Black Bean Soup, drained the rest of the beans and added the liquid to the pot of soup I would be making. Then I put the drained beans on dehydrator trays and dehydrated them until they were completely dry and turned to powder when when I crushed between my fingers. On this rainy day they took about 18 hours to dry, on dry days it would take less time. These beans are ready to seal up with a Food Saver, or can be stored in small, serving size mylar bags with an oxygen absorber.

Cooked, dehydrated beans vacuum sealed with Food Sever wide mouth attachment
The dehydrated beans, vacuum sealed and stored in Mason jars have a several year shelf life if stored in a cool dark place. When stored in mylar, just boil water, cut open the bag and soak the beans for 15 minutes then heat the them in the soaking water on a camp stove until they have absorbed the water, which usually takes 5 minutes or less if the beans are soaked first. This gives you a light weight, packable protein that cooks in very little time.

But I didn't stop there! I also made dried soup mix from some of the dehydrated beans. I put the seasoning for the Caribbean Black Bean Soup in the Vitamix with some of the dehydrated beans, and processed them all into a fine powder. I then sealed them with a Food Saver Vacuum sealer and labeled them with cooking directions. But wait! I am not finished yet!  Remember the pot of Caribbean Black Bean Soup I made? Well, I cooked it down to a very thick soup,reserved enough of the soup for my husband and I to have a bowl each for dinner, then I cooled the rest and put it in the Vitamix and blended it until I had a thick smooth slightly loose paste. I used my dehydrator's solid silicone sheets, and spread the cooled thick bean soup paste on the dryer sheets and dried it until the soup was completely dry. I broke a corner off the dried soup and crushed to powder with my fingers as a test to make sure it was completely dry. If it is not powdery when crushed return to the dehydrator and continue drying until it is. I then checked my Vitamix carafe to make sure it was bone dry and added my dehydrated soup and blended it into a fine powder. I also used the Food Saver to seal the soup up in individual servings, and labeled with cooking instructions and the date. This soup is ready to eat, just add hot water, stir and leave for a minute or two while the ingredients absorb the water. To make a thick paste for use as a burrito filling or to make to make a dip for chips, add water a little at a time until desired consistency is achieved or for soup slowly add hot water until the consistency is... what can I say.. uh,soupy...

Thick bean soup, ready for the dehydrator

Two serving bags of dehydrated uncooked Black Bean Soup

Now, lets figure out how many ways I was able to use 20 pounds of dried beans... 7 lbs. of raw dried beans in mylar and a bucket for long term storage, (shelf life 20 years), 20 pints of canned black beans, ready to eat, (shelf life of several years), 1 half gallon jar of cooked, dehydrated and vacuum sealed beans that will be cooked in 15 minutes, (shelf life several years unopened), 6 vacuum sealed bags of dehydrated bean soup that will cook in 15 minutes or so, (shelf life 1-2 years in plastic vacuum sealed bags, indefinitely when stored in mylar with an O2 absorber), 6 vacuum sealed bags of Ready to Eat, Caribbean Black Bean Soup, (shelf life 1-2 year in plastic, indefinitely in mylar with O2 absorber), and dinner!

Wow... It is just amazing how much can be done with a couple of bags of dried beans!

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