What to Do with an Abundance of Green Beans: The Hot-Pack Mastery Challenge

We planted three beds of green beans this year, all different varieties. My Landreth Bush Beans hit the ground running, and we ate delicious fresh green beans in stir fries and as sides before I admitted defeat and canned two quarts of them using the raw-pack method. Now, my Cherokee Trail of Tear and Purple Podded pole beans are producing an equally abundant amount of green beans just in time for the July Food in Jars Mastery Challenge for Hot Pack Preserving.

We haven’t had the opportunity to prepare the Trail of Tears or the Purple Podded beans yet for dinner, but the texture of the purple beans is entirely different than what I’d traditionally expect from a green bean. For starters, they are huge, and for seconds, the podded part of the name is assuredly an apt choice. While they lose their color after cooking, they are certainly striking in the garden. For this preservation challenge, I used all three varieties of beans.

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Glamour Shot of Green Beans!

I also need to confess that the pressure cooker unnerves me a little because they can literally explode if you screw them up. I have gone out of my way to avoid using it for so long that my husband has said with no small degree of exasperation that it’d be nice if I learned how to use it so he doesn’t always have to make the beans for dinner. We buy dried beans because they’re significantly cheaper than buying canned beans. If my husband isn’t around or I feel weird asking him yet again to make the beans for me, I’ll go out of my way to cook those dried beans for an hour plus in a normal pot before I bust out the small pressure cooker. I don’t like using it, but I have to use it to can green beans.

I have an abundance of green beans and insufficient amount of space in the freezer to freeze them. (If only!) My husband and I both significantly prefer fresh green beans to frozen ones and frozen to canned ones. It’s hard not to prefer fresh produce. The colors, textures, and tastes are so much more vibrant. At the same time, however, I want to live off more of the food I grow myself, and winter in Kansas isn’t exactly giving us much to live on. So, into the quarts surplus produce goes!

The difference between raw and hot packing green beans is pretty simple. Since I did raw packing of green beans just a couple of weeks ago, I feel like a pro in the difference. That, and it’s pretty simple: for raw packing, you stuff the beans into the jars, well, raw and then cover them with boiling water. For hot pack preserving, you cook the green beans before stuffing them into the jars and ladle their cooking liquid into the jar. I also learned a valuable lesson about hot packing from this experiment; I absolutely 100% without equivocating need to cut the green beans into two-inch segments. I cheated a little when cutting them, and it was too my disadvantage. When I tried to ladle them into the jars, they didn’t fit into the jars as smoothly as I wanted and I had to finagle some of them into place. It’s a lot harder to move boiling-hot green beans around in quart-sized jars than it is to stuff raw ones into them. Who knew? (Yes, sometimes I’m an idiot).

After the jars were prepared, I popped them in the pressure canner… and waited and waited. For pressure canning green beans, the canner has to reach and then maintain a certain amount of pressure to properly preserve and cook the beans. Of course, if you reach too much pressure, the whole thing explodes, and that’s once again why I’m a little uneasy around them. My husband had to leave just as I was putting the three quarts of green beans into the large canner, and I felt a little as if he were abandoning me with a unsteady missile that I needed to supervise. He’s always been present whenever the canner has been in use, so I may have peppered him with a couple of silly reminder questions about how to use the darn contraption, which he answered with much grace and very little condescension. I did manage to properly supervise the darn thing, and when he came home, our three quarts of green beans were cooling on the counter. Go me.

In the future, I would probably still use raw pack preserving over hot pack preserving for green beans even though it results in a little less in those giant quart jars. For one, a quart is an awful lot of green beans for a family to eat in a sitting, so I’m not quite so concerned with packing in as much as I possibly can into those jars. For two, I feel like hot pack preserving results in cooking the green beans twice:  once before they go in the jar, and a second time when you wait and wait and wait for the canner to reach pressure, stay at pressure, and then cool.

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On the left is hot packed green beans, on the right are the ones that I used raw packing for last month.

I also pickled a pound of jalapenos and four cucumbers from the garden. I felt both like a canning boss and absolutely exhausted. This mastery challenge has been a quite a boon for me. I’m grateful for it. Moreover, for this mastery challenge, I not only used the hot pack method for green beans into jars, but I also faced my fear of the pressure canner solo. A life skill and an October skill all rolled into one! I’ll probably still cook the beans on the stove top though… Not quite there yet.

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Pickled jalapenos, bread and butter pickles, and hot-pack green beans, all from the garden!
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