I used to think beans were gross. I refused to eat chili or any soup or stew featuring any sort of bean and would only eat them if they were thoroughly disguised in a dish like in a Mexican filling. In high school, I worked at a Taco Bell and would never eat even their refried beans (I also wouldn’t eat their meat after I started working there, too, but for different reasons). However, like mushrooms, I found out that I do like them. I like to think my palate is becoming more sophisticated but I have a feeling it has more to do with the fact that my mom didn’t like beans and so growing up we just didn’t eat them. Ever. She didn’t like Mexican food, either, so even refried beans were a culinary mystery. In fact, Taco Bell was my first introduction to cooking beans, if you call mixing scalding hot water with dehydrated beans cooking. It took about 2 years of working there to get up the courage to eat the refried beans-in a 7-layer burrito, easy beans, extra rice, no guacamole. Not bad, but I couldn’t see making them at home.
I must confess that even now, bean-based soups and stews are not in my cooking repertoire but beans do make it on the menu. One of my favorite places to go for lunch at work is to the local Mexican fast food (not Taco Bell) and eat their bean and cheese burrito. They have the best beans, tortillas, and spicy red sauce-it comes with a handful of chips and a drink and the best part the whole things is only $4. I love good food at even better prices.
Most of the time, however, I have homemade enchiladas in my freezer that I take to work with me and just re-heat for lunch. I was first introduced to these enchiladas by my husband when we were still dating. The first meal he served me was an enchilada that his father (who is a great cook) had made. I thought they were a frozen dinner of some kind and was astonished that something so good could be made at home, froze, re-heated and still taste so good! I got his dad to show me how to make the enchiladas myself (although mine don’t taste quite as good as his) and now I make up 2 dozen at a time to have on hand for a quick lunch. All that burrito-folding experience at Taco Bell is finally paying off!
So what does all this have to do with canning? This is a canning blog after all. Well, I’ll tell you. Commercially canned beans have a lot of salt in them (I know, because a kidney-friendly diet also means a low-salt diet). There are low-salt versions, but my thrifty nature loathes the thought of spending almost a dollar per can of beans, when I buy dried beans in bulk for way less than a dollar per pound. However, beans take a long time to cook and I’ve found are best only after an overnight soak. This requires advanced planning, which I am usually incapable of on a weeknight. If I can cooked beans myself, I’ll have beans on hand at a moments notice and for a fraction of the price of the commercially canned stuff without all that pesky salt.
Canned Turtle (Black) Beans
1 Pound Dried Beans (any type of dried bean)
4 Quarts Water
3 Tbsp Salt (optional)
The night before you plan on canning them, dissolve 3 tbsp of salt per gallon of water for every pound of beans. Add beans and soak at room temperature for 18-24 hours. The brine is to make the bean skins more porous and the insides of the beans will have a creamier texture, but a salt-less soak will work, too. The next day, drain and rinse the beans (the overnight soak will also help get rid of some of the gasiness that beans are prone to produce). Put beans in large stock pot and cover with 2″ of water.
Boil for 30 minutes. While they’re boiling away, get the pressure canner going and sterilize jars (I used pint jars to approximate a can of beans, but use whatever size fits your needs). Simmer lids and rings in a separate pot. When beans are done, fill jars with beans and cooking water, leaving 1″ headspace (I needed a little extra hot water to fill jars as I had a bit of a boil-over). I put on the lids and rings when the jars were filled and rims wiped, then placed in the pressure canner and processed for 75 minutes (for pints-90 minutes for quarts) at 10 pounds pressure.
Voila! Cooked beans ready to go whenever I am!