Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Improving the Process

Spare time is as hard to come by as spare change, so whenever I figure out a way to make a necessary chore more efficient, I get happy.  Since I'm very much a rookie at most of this food preservation stuff, just about everything is 'new to me' so I tend to get happy a lot these days.

We have had issues in the past with things 'hatching' in our rice and I know the same thing can happen with beans.  The bug larvae are already present in the rice and beans before it's harvested and, unless you do something to prevent it, they hatch later.  You can freeze the product for several days when you first bring it home but we don't have a separate freezer so finding space to do that would be an issue.  Storing the product in an oxygen-free container is a way to suffocate the larvae but since we store much more than we can use at one time, we would have to constantly re-seal and remove the oxygen.  So I have been searching for an easy and efficient way to overcome the problem.

I was reading a post recently at my friend, Frugal Faulein's blog  where she was talking about processing just one or two jars at a time of a new recipe to make sure it's a winner with your family.  Her suggestion was to also process some dried beans at the same time to make good use the extra space in the canner.  That got me to thinking about all the dried beans and rice down in storage that I need to process.  Right now, we have about 30 pounds of dried beans and at least 15 pounds of rice in storage that I want to process in pint and quart jars for ready to eat meals.  Then I thought about how hot it is and started dreading heating up the kitchen with a 90-minute batch of canned food in the processor.  I haven't pulled the pressure canner off the shelf yet this year.  There's just something about triple digit heat that makes me not want to think about canning.

That's when I remembered the gadget we bought from Foodsaver to vacuum seal canning jars.   

This weekend, I will be filling dry sterilized jars half full with beans, rice, or a combination of beans and rice, then vacuum seal them for processing this fall when the weather is cooler.  Sealed in clean glass jars, the food will be safe from varmints of any kind and with all of the oxygen removed, they will stay fresh for much longer ...and, as an added bonus ...nothing will be able to hatch!

When I am ready to pressure can them in a few months, I will open however many jars I want to process, then  rinse, soak and pre-boil the contents in one big batch.  The last fifteen minutes that the beans are boiling, the lids and rings will be boiling in a separate pot of water.   That process will take about an hour and a half which is just enough time for me to run the jars through the sterilization cycle on my dishwasher.  By the time the beans have boiled for one hour, the sterilized jars will be just cool enough to handle.

I can move the pot of beans off to a cool burner and put the pressure canner on the hot burner to start heating up.  The lid will be off and the rack and four inches of water will be in the bottom.  While the water in the canner is heating up, I would place a couple of rings of fresh onion and whatever seasonings I want to use in the bottom of each jar, and then add hot beans, leaving the recommended one inch of headspace.  Each rim will be wiped carefully, the lids and rings placed on the jars, then the jars go into the canner.

Following the specific directions for my canner, the pint jars will be processed for 75 minutes and quart jars will be processed for 90 minutes.  Start to finish, it should take about three hours to prepare, pre-boil, pack and process the beans ...a little less if I'm processing pints, a little more if I'm processing quarts.  But during the hour the beans are pre-boiling and the 75 to 90 minutes that they're processing, I will be free to go do other things.

This may not be a new idea at all to you canning experts out there.  But as I said, I'm still a rookie at food preservation and time is one of the scarcest commodities of all around here.  Efficient ways to store both food and canning jars is another issue I wrestle with from time to time.  So having figured out a way to improve in both areas, I am already getting happy.

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Blogger Modern Day Redneck said...

I have been using those for my rice and beans but found I had to double up on the lids. If not, when you pull sealer off the jar then it will pull the lid off as well. The jury is still out on them because they are a pain but I guess it's better than nothing.

July 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I missread, but I don't think you can can just rice because it gets too thick for the heat to penetrate.

July 8, 2011 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

I had the same problem my first five or six tries with the vacuum sealer gadget. But I read and re-read the directions and practiced, practiced, practiced. Make sure you disconnect the hose from the foodsaver BEFORE you pull the gadget off. It breaks the vacuum between the foodsaver and the jar. Also, after sealing a jar, never lift the lid on the foodsaver before you have disconnect the hose. Those two things seemed to be causing my problems.

July 9, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

I didn't mean the rice would be canned by itself. My husband loves Red Beans & Rice, Cajun style. Both the rice and beans are boiled for an hour before going through the canning process. For however many quarts of that I want to make, I would vacuum seal the dried beans and uncooked rice in the jars until I was ready to process. But when I am ready to process them, the contents stored in the jars would all go in a big pot along with the spices. They would be boiled for an hour before going back into the jars to be pressure canned. So the rice is already cooked when it goes through the canning process. I routinely process a rice and hamburger stew in quart jars in the pressure canner and it's never a problem.

July 9, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Arsenius the Hermit said...

I have always bought sacks of beans at the store, then filled up big storage jars with them. I never had bugs get into that, but the beans were dried. Maybe that was why. I pour rice from the store into containers, seal them, and put them in my food storage area which is climate controlled. Even though I have not had a problem with bugs except once in some corn meal, reading your post has got me thinking about it.

July 10, 2011 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

This was the first time I ever got bugs in anything either, Arsenius, but I have never stored this much for this long before either. Only the rice 'hatched' problem with the beans so far. In researching the matter, some sites recommend freezing dried beans or rice for three days before storing. I guess the freezing kills the larvae. But we only have a side-by-side fridge in the house and the freezer space is less than adequate as it is. I wouldn't have room to freeze 10's of pounds of beans and rice. A goal for this year is to get a separate freezer to keep in the food storage shed which is climate controlled. Then I would probably freeze the beans/rice when I bring them home ...and move them to canning jars after they've been frozen at least three days.

Welcome to my blog if you're a new reader. New readers mean new input and perspectives ...always a good thing.

July 10, 2011 at 9:54 AM  

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