Canning Beans with a Pressure Cooker

canningbeansPreserving food takes a bit of summer and stores it in a jar.

I used to be afraid of pressure canning, certain I would blow up my kitchen or poison my family. I’m guessing that fear came from food companies working to convince me that canning was an arduous drudgery and dangerous besides, so I’d best buy Del Monte beans instead.  Think of using a pressure canner like boiling water in a kettle, but on steroids. Nothing to fear if you follow rather simple directions.

You need a few essential pieces of equipment, and a couple other tools are handy, but entirely optional.

Essential Equipment

1) A pressure canner with a working gauge. If you get ahold of a used canner at Good Will or buy one off Craigslist take the gauge on the lid (or the entire lid) to your nearest State University Extension Office for testing. Do this every year or two (and once a new pressure canner is about five years old check it every couple of years). Replace the gauge when it’s no longer reliable. We have an OSU Extension Office in McMinnville that will test gauges for free on weekdays from 9 am-4 pm. They are not the ones who sell gauges, and so are not vested in telling you yours is broken! Also check that the rubber ring in the lid has flexibility and that the vent pipe is clear (that is, you should be able to see through it if you hold it up to light.)

2) Jars, Lids, and Rings.  I get a good number of my jars from Good Will, as glass jars can be used and re-used year after year. Check used ones for cracks along the rim, and use these to store dry goods rather than for canning. Always use new lids for canning. Old lids can be used when storing dried goods. Rings can also be used year after year.

3) Produce! Use freshly harvested beans (or whatever), and ones without blemishes or decay.

Optional Equipment:

1) Funnel for pouring liquid into jars. This is less important when using wide mouthed jars for beans, but wonderful when pouring tomato sauce into jars. The funnel pictures works for both wide and narrow mouthed

2) Canner tongs for lifting hot jars out of water baths and pressure cookers (you can wait until they cool unless you are doing multiple batches in a day. Hot pads work too, but grabbing the jar with them can be tricky and if they get wet they lose their heat protection!

Directions: I recommend you read through these before you get started.

1)   Wash 7 quart jars, lids and rings.  Wide mouthed are easier to load up with beans. Keep jars, rings and lids in hot water until ready to use.lids

2)   Wash and snap beans.beans

3)   Start water boiling in a tea kettle and a small saucepan (which is about what you need to top off 7 quarts).

4)   Put the pressure cooker on the stove with about 3 inches of water and about a tablespoon of vinegar. The vinegar is optional. It helps keep the cooker from discoloring.  Turn the stove on high and set the lid on top, but don’t latch it.

5)   Fill the jars with beans, add up to 1 tsp. salt (based on your preference–I use between 3/4 and 1 tsp.) and fill with the boiling water from the kettle/saucepan, leaving an 1 inch headspace in the jar.water

6)   Jiggle around the edges of the jar to release the air bubbles. Use a knife along the edges to detect resistant ones. Air bubbles are more common and problematic for denser sauces like tomato sauce, but jiggle away nevertheless.

7)   Put a lid on and tighten with a ring. No need to use massive strength to over-tighten, but do screw it on securely. Place the 7 jars in the pressure cooker, which by now should be simmering.

8)   Latch the pressure cooker lid by matching up the arrows on the lid and cooker to assure proper closing. You may want to practice this once before you get started as steam will be in your face if you try to practice when you are ready to go!gauge

9)   After a few minutes you’ll see steam coming out of the short vent pipe (pictured in the forefront with the gauge here).  One of two things will happen next. Either the second release vent on top of the canner will pop up (pictured below in the background) or you’ll get a good stream of steam from the short vent pipe and the secondary one will be sputtering away. Once you get a good stream from the short pipe, let it flow for either 5 minutes or until the secondary vent pops up. Then place the vent cap over the vent pipe (this is the silver and black piece that comes in the white box with a cooker. In the picture below it has been placed on top of the vent pipe.) Capping the vent begins to build pressure in the canner, though steam will continue to escape and sputter from the the second vent cap, which shows you all is well and good.

the vent has now been capped. You can see the second vent in the background. It has popped up.

The vent has now been capped. You can see the second vent in the background. It has popped up.

10)  In 5 minutes or so the pressure gauge will start rising.  When it gets to about 8 turn down your heat some—as it will keep climbing.  When you reach 11 start timing. For beans in quart jars you’ll want it to run the canner for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.

11)  Likely the gauge will go over 11—don’t worry about that, but keep turning down the heat if it keeps going up.  (If it gets above 15 or so I’d remove it from the heat). When you get close to the 25 minute mark you can turn off the heat and the pressure will stay high for awhile if you have an electric range.

12)  After 25 minutes remove from the heat (I set the cooker outside.)  IT WILL BE VERY HOT AND VERY HEAVY.  Don’t remove the vent cover, let the cooker cool down to where the gauge is back at 0 without any attempt to speed that up by removing the vent or cracking the lid.  Then you can remove the vent cover and open up the canner.  The steam will still be very hot so do this carefully.  I wait until everything has cooled completely before removing the jars—but that’s because I generally do just one batch at a time.  Let the jars stay on the counter or porch undisturbed for about 24 hours—then check that they have all sealed by pushing on the center of the lid to be sure it is indented. Remove the rings and store your jars.  (If you cool your canner inside you’ll hear this delightful popping sound as the jars seal.)

13)  Wash out the pressure cooker and be sure the vent cap gets put back in the white box and placed inside the canner.  (I once misplaced this essential piece!). Wash and store your rings as well.

Anticipate summer’s bounty in winter…


  • We usually can 100-200 jars of fruit and veggies each year and also freeze a lot. Lately we have started drying some too, especially apples slices. We are just getting established at our new home in IL so don’t have tree fruit yet, so will have to do without that until our trees start bearing. Oh yes, our chick are now approaching the pullet stage, and we discovered we have one rooster, so if a hen wants to set, we may have chicks again. If you ever get to central IL, stop and visit us. It would be good to see you and meet your hubby.

  • That sounds great, Mike! I dried some peaches for the first time this week. I’ve dried apples, pears and berries before–and peaches are great, too. And yes–if we ever get to central IL we’ll stop in! Likewise–if you are out this way let us know!

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