I’m sure you’ve heard this one a thousand times: dried beans are significantly cheaper than canned ones. Most larger chain stores carry them in bags and in bulk, bulk being the ideal of course on both price and often quality. I’ve noticed that dried is the only way that you can get some of the nicer heirloom beans such as rattlesnake and yin-yang beans, either at the farmers market or in the garden, and once you have them the problem then becomes cooking them so you can use them in your recipes.
Who wants to have to go to all the trouble of soaking and cooking beans? Ultimately many of us end up opting for canned beans out of time-crunch based necessity, however, there are a few ways to make this process less of a burden.
I discussed pressure cooking dried beans in a previous post, including cooking times, but one thing I didn’t cover was quick-soaking. Quick soaking requires only two hours (rather than requiring you to remember to soak beans right before bed) and can end up helping to destroy more of the toxin in bean shells that contribute to gastrointestinal upset when we eat them! Quick soaking is pretty easy too: put the beans and enough water to cover (I like using about 4-6 cups of water per cup of beans to be on the safe side) into a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes uncovered, then cover and let soak for 1.5-2 hours. Cook as normal in either the pressure cooker or a pot according to cooking times!
You can also cook unsoaked beans in a slow cooker overnight so that they’ll be ready in the morning. Slow cookers are fantastic for this purpose, particularly if you want to use the beans for something like breakfast sausages! The only beans you need to be wary of using this method for are kidney beans. They contain a mild toxin that needs to be brought to boiling temperatures to be rid of, so boil them for around 10 minutes before using this method. Otherwise, just put your dried beans in the slow cooker and cover them with water at least 3 inches above the top of the beans the night before. Cook them on low and make sure that they get a good 6-9 hours cook time before you take them out. Because of the lower temperatures you have a LOT more wiggle room with this method as far as cook times, and that’s what makes it so convenient!
Dried and soaked beans can be used another way as well – you can can them yourself. This requires a pressure canner (not an electric pressure cooker, they can’t get to high enough pressure to can), but it’s well worth the investment if you go through a lot of beans. Most vegans do, and the convenience of home canned beans really can’t be beat. You can use pint jars for to replace the typical “15 oz” 1.5 cup store jars, or you can use quart jars for larger quantities for things like hummus. You’ll need to check the pressure cooker’s manual for specific instructions on capacity (if you can fit more jars then adjust the recipe as necessary to max out the number of cans you can get in at one time), but here’s my general canning recipe for 1 lb beans:
Home Canned Beans
- 1 lb beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 4 pint jars OR 1 quart jar with fresh lids and rings
- Pressure canner
NOTE: The FDA recommends boiling beans for 30 minutes prior to canning them, but I’ve noticed that not only are the beans often mushy using this method, they often end up less flavorful than if you simply soaked them and covered them in boiling water as I describe below. Do so at your own risk – just because I’ve never gotten sick doesn’t mean someone in your household won’t, and if you have someone high risk in your house such as an older, immune compromised, or under 5 year old household member, then you may wish to err on the side of caution and boil them first.
- Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, discard the soaking water.
- Bring 8-12 cups of fresh water to a boil.
- Divide the beans equally into the jars using a canning funnel (or just dump them all in the quart jar if that’s what you’re using) and fill with boiling water, leaving one inch or so of head space. Add 1/4 tsp salt per pint or the whole tsp of salt for the quart.
- Wipe the rims and place the fresh lids and rings on, hand-tightening to secure.
- Place in the pressure canner and follow the directions on your canner as to how much water to use, each model is different. If it came with an insert to life the jars from the bottom of the canner, USE IT. It’s a lifesaver and can help prevent broken jars.
- Bring to 11 lbs of pressure, maintain for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove from the burner and let cool until all pressure is released. DO NOT QUICK RELEASE THE PRESSURE.
- Using canning tongs, remove the cans and listen for the characteristic “pop” sound that tells you the cans are sealing. If any of them are not sealed within an hour, refrigerate them and use them within a week.
Enjoy your canned beans! This recipe works for just about any kind of bean that I can think of, they’re all about equal once they’re soaked under high pressure. My canner can hold up to 10 pint jars at a time and I’ll often can 2-3 different kinds of beans together to save time. They last about 6 months to a year, just keep an eye on them. They taste a LOT better than store canned beans, and if you grew them all the better!