Pressure canning pinto beans is a staple skill at my house. Todd and I grew up eating beans regularly, so it naturally became a habit that we ate beans a few times per week as a young family. About 10 years ago, I learned the skill of pressure canning beans, and it has saved us quite a bit of money.
Many people have asked if pressure canning pinto beans is possible without a pressure canner. Listen, I get you. I’m a full-on DIY person who is always looking for an easier, cheaper, better way of doing things. But this is not one area where you want to play around.
The reason you can’t use them interchangeably is simply because pressure canners are made for canning, and pressure cookers are not. Most pressure cookers are smaller than canners, and heat too quickly and cool more slowly to provide the kind of heat that a pressure canner needs to operate, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension.
“I’ve been pressure canning pinto beans this way for years and no one in my family has ever died from them!
Ok then, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Cooperative extensions and food safety gurus are here to find and teach us the methods that work well enough to produce safe foods at home. If someone’s family has been doing it in an unsafe way “forever, and no one’s died”, that could be due to that family’s eating habits or some other factor. Better to stick on the safe side of things when it comes to pressure canning beans (or anything else) at home.
Now that I’ve said that, let’s get started.
Pressure Canning Pinto Beans
Step 1: Make sure you have all of the canning gear you need for this job.
pressure canner–not cooker
pressure regulator, or just use the one that comes with your canner if you have a working dial gauge
extra canning rack, if you are double stacking
14-16 pint mason jars or 7 quart mason jars–I use predominantly wide mouth, so that’s what I’m linking to
Lids and rings to fit the size canning jars you are using
large stock pot for par cooking the beans
Step 2: Pull together your food ingredients.
4 lb. pinto beans (or beans of your choice)
salt–I use pink himalayan salt but any kind of salt will do since it’s just for flavoring
Step 3: Sort through your beans, being careful to remove any rocks and debris that you don’t want in your final product. Add them to your stock pot, then fill with water covering the beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for one hour.
Step 4: Fill your pressure canner according to the instructions in your manual and heat the water. Once it’s boiling, I immediately turn it down to the lowest setting and let it sit until I’m ready to fill the jars. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the water to avoid cloudy jars (not dangerous, just ugly).
Step 5: Drain beans and return them to the stock pot. Refill with water covering the beans again by 2 inches. Bring to a boil for 30 minutes.
Step 6: Heat your jars to prepare them to be filled with hot beans. The way I do this is to put a few jars into the hot water that has been heating in the canner. You are not trying to sterilize the jars, but merely heat them so that the hot beans do not crack the jars. (The water need not be boiling, by the way, but simply hot.)
Step 7: Remove your jars from the canner and fill using a funnel and a ladle (a measuring cup works too). Try to first add only beans to the jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Now add your salt if you are using it (1 tsp. per quart, or 1/2 tsp. per pint). Lastly, add either the broth from the beans, or hot water to your jars, making sure not to go above the 1 inch headspace. Repeat as many times as needed.
Step 8: Use a butter knife and run it around the inside walls of the jar, gently pushing toward the center to coax the air bubbles out of the food. Do this with all of the jars.
Step 9: With a damp cloth (preferably one that won’t leave fibers behind), clean off the lip and the threads of the jars.
Step 10: Put a lid on each jar, and then a ring and finger tighten. No need to heat these two items, they can be used at room temperature. (If using plastic canning lids and gaskets, use the proper method prescribed.)
Step 11: Load the canner, being careful to leave some space on all sides of each jar for even heating. If you are using pint jars, fill the bottom, then add the extra canning rack on those jars, then finish filling the canner. Put the lid on tightly and turn the fire on high.
Step 12: As the canner begins to build up pressure, it will begin to vent from the vent pipe (the place where you put the pressure regulator). Allow it to vent for 10 full minutes.
Step 13: After 10 minutes, add the pressure regulator. For canning beans at regular altitude (1000 ft. or lower), you will need to build up to 10 lbs. pressure, and can the beans for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). If your at an altitude that is higher than 1,000 ft., you will need to adjust your pressure that you process. Simply Canning has a great article and chart that will teach you how. Begin timing the processing only once the canner has reached the correct pressure and the pressure regulator is making some noise.
Step 14: Once the processing is done, turn the fire off and allow the canner to sit and depressurize. Do not try to fast track this process, as it could lead to broken jars and improper cooling. Go do something else for an hour or so.
Step 15: Once the canner is depressurized, open the lid away from your face and set the lid aside. (You will know it’s ready to be opened if the pressure plug and safety valve are down completely, and if no steam comes out of the vent pipe upon removing the pressure regulator. If those things are not in place, wait until they are before you open your canner. Allow the jars to sit a few minutes in the canner, then remove them with a jar lifter and set them on a towel on the counter. Check in 24 hours to make sure the seals are firm, label with the date and year, and put on the shelf for super simple dinners.
See? Pressure canning pinto beans is easy! It takes a few tries to get completely comfortable with it, but if you take some time to learn, you’ll soon become a pro at canning beans, and saving money on your grocery bill!