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Learning To Use A Pressure Canner/Cooker

My husband got me a pressure canner/cooker for Christmas this year.  I wanted one several years ago, but when I started to read about them, I was easily overwhelmed.   First off, I didn’t realize that they could do two different things…cook foods or can low acid foods.  I put it on the back burner for a while, but after reading a blog where the lady does a lot of pressure canning, I wanted to try it to see if I could save us some money.

I used if for the first time yesterday to cook 2 pounds of beans.  I wanted to try something easy so I could build my confidence.  The beans turned out beautifully.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it went well.

The first thing I did was follow the directions for the quick soaking method.  For my beans it said to bring the beans to a boil for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, put a lid on, and let sit for one hour.  So that is what I did.  During that hour I reviewed my instruction book again.

The next step was to rinse the beans.  I rinsed them until the water was clear.  Then, as per the directions that came with the pressure cooker, I put the beans with just enough water to cover them.  I added one tablespoon of vegetable oil to help prevent foaming and one teaspoon of salt to help keep the skins on the beans.  This was in the recipe and instruction book.  I live in a lower altitude so I needed 11 pounds of pressure for 6 minutes to cook the beans (only 6 minutes!) to the desired softness.  I wanted to put them in soup, so I cooked them on the longer side of the scale versus 4 minutes (the shorter side of the scale) to have a harder beans to put in a salad.

It took forever to get the gauge to get off of zero.  Once the pressure started it wasn’t too long.  Actually,  it snuck up on me.  I looked away when it was at 8 pounds and when I looked back a couple of minutes later, it was at 13!  I didn’t know what to do so I moved it off of the heat and set the timer since it was above 11 pounds.  The minimum is 11 pounds for the entire cook time.  If it had dropped below 11 pounds at any time I would have had to restart the timer to 6 minutes.  I think this is to be sure they had enough cooking time to be safe to eat.  Does anyone know for sure?

I learned that once the pressure is up there, it is really slow going back down.  I never did get back to 11 during the actual cook time, it stayed at 13 for the whole six minutes.  I let it cool down on its own as per the owner’s manual.

After the pressure was down, I took the lid off of the canner and to my surprise the contents looked exactly the same!  I spooned out a couple of  beans to make sure they were soft, and they were!  Amazing to me.  There was no less water in the canner that I could see.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but apparently beans that hadn’t absorbed the water and looked exactly the same wasn’t it!

I found a website that did a conversion of dry beans to canned etc.  Here is the link if you are interested.  As per this chart, the 2 pound bag would be 12 cups of beans after cooking or eight 15 oz. cans of beans.  I love it!  I need this many to make a nice big pot of soup for our family.  I had these beans for a long time, but I think they were $1.99.  The cans of beans at the grocery are between 59 and 99 cents, so that is a big savings over buying store-bought beans.

Here are a few photos of my bean experiment.

These are the soaked beans that have been rinsed with clean water.

These are the soaked beans that have been rinsed with clean water.

These are the beans in the canner before cooking with the water, oil and salt.

These are the beans in the canner before cooking with the water, oil and salt.

Here I am lining up the arrows to be sure to close the canner properly.

Here I am lining up the arrows to be sure to close the canner properly.

These are the beans after cooking.  The water level is still the same.  As I look putting these on the blog the coloring is different, but the amount of liquid was about the same.

These are the beans after cooking. The water level is still the same. As I look putting these on the blog, the coloring is different because it was later in the day and I had the kitchen lights on, but the amount of liquid was about the same.

This was fun for me.  I am usually afraid to try new things.  Next, I want to try to can something in the pressure canner.