How to Can Pork and Beans
Beans are a prepper pantry staple, but they take a long time to cook!
This is fine in normal circumstances – you just need to plan ahead, soak them, and let them simmer for a few hours.
However, in a disaster situation, this can be easier said than done. I’ve cooked them on my woodstove before and it took an entire day, and required constant stoking of the fire to keep the heat up enough. Because of this, I’d only cook beans on the woodstove on the very coldest of days, when I required a blazing fire all day – otherwise it is going to use up far too much fuel to make a humble pot of beans. And if you don’t have a woodstove, most other methods are going to be far too wasteful of fuel as well.
For this reason, I always have some jars of home canned beans on my shelves. I make them a few different ways, but my two favorite are Basic Pork and Beans and Boston Baked Beans. You can use whatever beans you have on hand for this. Our household favorites are navy beans, white kidney beans and pinto beans. Sometimes I mix a few different kinds. I have also had good results with canning black-eyed peas and black beans – just follow the instructions for Basic Pork and Beans. And finally, if you need to, feel free to leave out the meat. Your end result will not be as flavorful, but some have religious restrictions or follow a vegetarian diet. Just skip the addition of the meat and carry on with the rest of the instructions.
Some people have questioned the price efficiency of canning my own beans instead of buying pre-canned beans at the store. This is a valid point – they end up, with the price of power to can them and the use of a jar lid, to be about the same price as the conventional storebought canned beans. However, if you are using organic beans and comparing the home canned to store bought organic beans, doing it yourself is far cheaper. As well:
- I know exactly what is in the beans I can myself – I am certain there is no high-fructose corn syrup, no additives to maintain texture or appearance and no mystery “spices” as they like to put on labels to hide the fact they are adding MSG to your food.
- I’m assured of the quality of meat that I’m using. The pork in home canned pork and beans will be the pork you have selected. In our case, it’s from a local farm that does not use growth hormones or antibiotics. And, it’s real meat, not some congealed “meat by-product”.
- I know the beans have been carefully washed and sorted by hand, not sifted through some machine that might not catch everything I would.
Boston Baked Beans
These beans are tangy and delicious right out of the jar. The liquid is the classic “Boston Baked Beans” sauce containing no tomato product. It thickens up beautifully during the canning process. We often add these beans to speed up a batch of homemade chili. The usual bean for this recipe is the navy bean, but I’ve also made it with pinto beans with excellent results.
- 3 pounds of dried beans
- 1 pound of bacon
- 6 tbsp dark molasses
- 2 tbsp of white vinegar
- 2 tbsp of onion powder
- 1 tbsp of salt
- 2 tsp of dry mustard
- ½ tsp of powdered cloves
Rinse and sort dried beans, then soak them in hot water for up to 2 hours.
Discard the soaking water, then bring to a boil in fresh water.
Drain the beans again, this time reserving the cooking water.
Distribute the bacon evenly across sanitized pint jars.
Top the bacon with soaked beans, filling each jar no more than 2/3 full.
In the bean pot, bring 6 cups of the reserved liquid (topping up with water to get to the 3 cups if necessary) to a boil. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, simmering until they are well combined.
Ladle the hot molasses mixture over the beans and bacon, leaving one inch of headspace – see the photo to the left. The beans must be totally covered with liquid and there must be room for them to expand.
Lid the jars and process in a pressure canner for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds of pressure, adjusting for altitude.
Basic Pork and Beans
After the canning recipe, read on for some variations on the basic recipe. This recipe has worked on any type of bean I’ve tried it with, including pinto, navy, black, red kidney, white kidney, chick peas (garbanzos), and black-eyed peas. Adjust the meat you add according to what will blend nicely with your bean of choice, as well as how you intend to use the beans in the future.
NOTE: I tried this once without pre-soaking the beans and the results were poor. The beans had to be further cooked in liquid when I opened the jar. They soaked up all the liquid and were not fully cooked. This was resolved by two different methods: adding them to soup and letting them cook for another hour or two when I opened the jar, and making oven-baked beans. (This is a link to Baked Bean Nirvana!!!! Truly the best baked beans I have ever eaten – I use my cast iron Dutch oven for these.)
- 3 pounds of dried beans
- 1-2 pounds of ham, salt pork or bacon
- salt as needed
- 6 small onions, cut in half
- 12 bay leaves
- water or broth as needed
- Rinse and sort dried beans, then soak them in hot water for up to 2 hours.
- Discard the soaking water, then bring to a boil in fresh water or broth.
- Drain the beans again, this time reserving the cooking water.
- Distribute the pork evenly across sanitized pint jars.
- Top the meat with soaked beans, filling each jar no more than 2/3 full.
- Add to each jar a pinch of salt, 2 bay leaves and an onion.
- In the bean pot, bring 6 cups of the reserved liquid (topping up with water to get to the proper amount if necessary) to a boil.
- Ladle the hot liquid over the beans, leaving 1-1/2 inches of headspace. The beans must be totally covered with liquid and there must be room for them to expand.
- Lid the jars and process in a pressure canner for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds of pressure, adjusting for altitude.
Mexican Variation: Use black beans or pinto beans. Instead of the bay leaf, add 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder, plus 1/8 tsp of cumin, to each jar. Add 1 can of tomato paste to the boiling liquid you are going to pour over the beans. These are yummy popped right into a tortilla for bean burritoes or heated and mashed slightly to make “refried beans”.
BBQ Beans: Use any type of beans. Replace half of the boiling liquid with tomato juice and add 1 tsp of liquid smoke, 1 tbsp of dry mustard powder and 1 tbsp of white vinegar. Top the contents of each jar with a tbsp of brown or Muscovado sugar
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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org