With food prices rising, canning our garden’s bounty is regaining popularity – and green beans are a great place to start. Now, I’ve strung and snapped a few green beans in my time, but not as many as an older generation who put up quart jars by the dozen in a few short weeks through the summer. It’s not hard – you’ve just got to follow the rules and be ready to can when your food is ready to harvest.

Green bean harvest

After harvesting your green beans from the garden, pop them in the fridge if you aren’t ready to work with them yet. Just before using them, wash well. For 7 quarts of canned green beans, you need to start with 14 pounds of fresh ones.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Washing green beans

After snapping and stringing the beans, rinse them again.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Green Beans in jar

Pack the snapped beans in a quart jar and fill with boiling water, leaving an inch of headspace.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Canning lids

Heat the lids (not the bands) in a small pot of water. Take care to layer them so they’re not fitted and stacked together and will be easy to pick up with tongs.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Canned green beans

Before storing, test that each jar is sealed, remove the ring, then wipe the jar and lid clean. Write the date on the jar lid and store in a cool, dry, dark location until ready to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

When the green beans are ready, you’ve got to pick them or they’ll get “beany” and tough. Once they’re picked, you can store them in the refrigerator for a few days, but for best quality it’s necessary to work them up soon after harvest.

Now, assuming you’ve picked or bought more green beans that you know what to do with, here’s how to preserve them using a weighted pressure canner:

  1. Wash the beans with clean water in a large bowl. Agitate to loosen any soil on the beans, then drain the water.
  2. Wash the jars in the dishwasher so that they’ll be clean and hot when you’re ready to pack.
  3. Start by breaking off each end of the bean. If the beans have strings, pull them out as you break off the ends. Cut out any visible insect damage or rust, then snap the beans in 1-inch pieces. Place the ends and the strings in a bowl for discarding, and place the snapped beans in a clean bowl. I like to use a 4- or 8-cup measuring bowl, so I can guesstimate how many beans I’ll need for a canner (4 cups fills approximately 1 quart).
  4. Run water over the broken beans, agitate and drain.
  5. Fill the clean, hot jars with green beans. Pack them in tightly, up to the neck of the jar.
  6. Place jar lids in a small pot with water and heat on the stove, but not to boiling.
  7. Add boiling water to jars, leaving an inch of headspace (the space between the top of the water and the top of the jar).
  8. Using tongs, pick up lids from the hot water and place them on the jars. Apply a screw-on ring so that it’s finger-tight (firm).
  9. Carefully place the jars in the canner. Remember, they’re already hot from the hot water bath and the heated lid, so you might want to use a towel or a jar-lifter.
  10. Add 2 quarts of water to the canner, making sure that the water doesn’t exceed half the height of the jars.
  11. Close the canner and secure the lid. (The weight should not be on the lid yet.)
  12. Turn the burner to high heat. Keep a vigilant eye on the canner.
  13. When there’s a steady stream of steam coming from the steam hole on the lid of the canner, place the weight over the steam hole. Only now will pressure begin to build.
  14. Watch the pressure gauge carefully. Green beans need to be cooked at 10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes (assuming you’re at an altitude lower than 1,000 feet). When the pressure gauge reaches 10 pounds, set a timer for 25 minutes – but don’t walk away!
  15. The pressure will continue to build unless a variable changes. The variable we can control is the amount of heat we’re applying. When the pressure reaches 10 pounds, reduce the heat to medium-high. Continue adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a constant 10 pounds of pressure.
  16. After 25 minutes at 10 pounds, turn the burner off. (Do not open the lid!)
  17. The pressure will slowly decrease to zero. Only when the pressure reaches zero is it safe to open the lid. Even then, there will still be hot steam inside the canner, so open the lid away from you so the lid directs the steam away from your face.
  18. Carefully remove the hot jars and place them on a towel.
  19. The lids may continue to seal over the course of several hours (resulting in a popping sound).
  20. Check all the jars to ensure they’re sealed properly. If a jar doesn’t seal (you’ll know if it doesn’t if you can press on the lid and it pops back up), serve the beans immediately – they’re cooked, but won’t keep.
  21. Remove the rings, and wipe the lids and jars with a wet cloth to remove any residue from the canning process.
  22. Using a permanent marker, write the date on the lid before storing.
  23. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for best preservation quality.

Consider how many beans your family eats in a given year. For instance, two canners would be 14 quart jars, which would mean homegrown beans once a month with a couple left over. If you have more beans than your family will eat (or more than you have time to process), share them with friends or neighbors. Chances are they’ll appreciate all your hard work as much as you do!