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Green beans; Can in boiling water bath?

 
pollinator
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My Aunt has been canning beans with her mother since she was 6 years old – she is now 65.  She has never used a pressure cooker; when she was growing up they didn’t have money for those things.  She gave me her recipes for canning and I was all gung-ho about it until I read in the Ball canning book that beans must be processed in a pressure cooker to get them to reach 240 degrees.

Now I am uncertain about it.  On the one hand I grew up eating my grandmothers and aunts food and none of us ever got sick – it was really good food.  She swears that I will be able to tell by the smell if it is bad or not.

Can I get some feedback on the subject from other canners?  Anybody process green beans in a boiling water bath instead of pressure cooker?
 
                    
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Don't do it.  Vegetables have a low acidity, with a pH of 4.6 and up.  Low acid foods must be pressure canned, because botulism thrives in low-acid environments. 

The high heat achieved during pressure canning will kill botulism.  And no, botulism can't be smelled or tasted.  (Spoiled food WILL look and smell funny, so that's probably what she was thinking of).

I am guessing that your grandma probably added something (vinegar or lemon juice) to increase the acidity of her green beans.  Still, it's a risky proposition, since she was just guessing whether she had gotten the pH low enough to be safe.

Just to be clear, you can PICKLE just about anything in a water bath canner.  I can pickled green beans and other vegies all the time.  I am using a brine that is half water and half vinegar, so it's definitely low pH. 
 
                                
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Yeah, I am with Idahofolk. I water bath green beans in either 1:1 vinegar/water or 5:2 vinegar/water, depending on how paranoid I am feeling and the strength of the vinegar. Add some spices and you've got dilly beans. I discovered dilly beans last year and love them so much I am planning on making 60 pints this summer. If my garden doesn't make enough beans, I am buying them in!

I know a lot of people say I've been water-bathing veggies for years and no one has died yet, but I have read about botulism that it can be present in tiny amounts and not kill you, resulting instead in neurological damage like facial numbness.
 
steward
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My grandmother also canned up string beans using only the water bath method.  None of us ever got sick.  She lived to the ripe old age of 98. 

It only takes 1 instance to destroy the statement 'none of us ever got sick.'

Being a low acid food, pressure canning is the recommended method.  The investment in a pressure cooker is about a hundred bucks.  I've had bigger bar tabs.  Other than the use of the pressure cooker and the processing time, the methods are exactly the same.  Using the pressure cooker does not change the quality of the food. 

If you are looking for support to continue to use the water bath method for low acid foods, you wont get it from me.  People resist change, even when it makes good sense, and I fully understand that.  I'm pretty stubborn at times, too. 
 
steward
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Look at the bright side of getting sick from improperly canned goods:  It is most likely to happen in the winter time where a couple days in the hospital won't interfere with your gardening chores.  But then again, it could happen when you are snowed in and the paramedics can't get to you quickly.
 
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I would not do it.
Some general info on Botulism. There are on average, 23 cases in the US per year.  1 in 10 million are long odds but if it gets you it's got allot of bad things going for it.
Some facts on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulism
 
                                
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PICKLED green beans are the only safe way to do it in low acid and then you have to use a good recipe. Somebody posts this every few months, terrorists?
 
pollinator
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I remember the old water bath recipes for canning green beans and corn.  What they lacked in temperature they made up for with time - they had to be boiled for something like a couple of hours or longer.  It seemed really ridiculous to cook all the nutrients to death.  There would be no point in eating the end result and I'm sure the flavor and texture were gone as well.  The energy use would have been major too.  Green beans and other low acid foods are easily preserved by drying.  Check out our solar dryer at http://www.geopathfinder.com/9473.html

If investment cost is a major factor, you can repurpose a major piece of capital equipment that you probably already own - your car.  You can use your parked car as a food dryer. Take your green beans and slice into 1/4" pieces, steam blanch very lightly, and spread on dryer screens or even cookie sheets.  Set up screens or trays in car, cover with black or very dark cotton cloth, park with the biggest windows facing the Equator, leave a windows open a little bit (about 1") to let the moisture out. This is a much better use for a car than driving it, but why not do both since you're already doing one?
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
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Thank you all for the info, I think I will invest in a stainless pressure cooker as I can use the large pot for a variety of things besides canning.

No, rockguy, I am not a terrorist.

Walk, love the 'car dryer' idea.  I do have a vehicle that I cannot convince my hubby to part with and it just sits in the back yard taking up space.  It could be serving a useful purpose!!  I'll start with some herbs to dry and go from there.
 
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My mom-in-law used to can beans in amounts that make my SO ill even thinking about beans to this day It was so bad that her cellar was still full few years ago when we had to clean it out a bit (she still around and relatively well, but she is kind of a hoarder (WWII trauma) and sometimes we have to step in) and we threw out jars that were 15 years old. She was convinced they were still edible and was never sick. But if you can't tell the beans from the carrots, I don't think there's any nutrition left.

Around here Austrianmade Weck is the leading brand and it's a non-pressure canning system. They advise to sterilise for 90 minutes on 100 degrees celcius, letting it cool and resterilising the next day. You will end up with a greenish grey mushy canned beanmass that's hardly nutricious. Taking in to consideration the amount of heat needed, the storagespace and work, I'll be drying most of the beans. Also, beans can be salted and fermented like sauerkraut, I'll be trying that sometime this year. Pickling sounds great to, as I use a lot of beans for salads anyway (green beans, raw union and a musterdvinaigrette).

 
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My grandma canned string beans using vinegar and she did it in the oven. I remember them being delicious (like everything else she made) and yeah, 'nobody ever got sick or died' from eating them.
However, I prefer less risk taking and use a pressure canner.

Have had this pressure canner at least 30 years and it was old when I bought it at a garage sale--it's Harvest Gold in color, so that gives a pretty good idea of its age. Amazingly, there are still replacement parts available for it even now. All that to say that one can pay even less for a pressure canner if cost is a prohibiting factor.
I would hate to go through all the work of growing and canning only to have the food be inedible or possibly even toxic.
We prefer fresh or frozen green beans, but home canned are good and can be kept without electricity--a big plus when one is off grid.
 
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Sounds like great advice here. I have always pressure canned my green beans and purple hulled peas. That is what I love about permies.com, you get great advice in a kind way. No one tries to talk down to you because you don't know something. They just put an arm around your shoulders and show you how. And give great ideas and advice. Thank you permies everywhere
 
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Monique Tobias wrote:

My grandma canned string beans using vinegar and she did it in the oven.

My bold added! The vinegar is the key - it's changing a low acid food into a higher acid food and that prevents botulism from growing.

One of our modern problems is that many varieties have been chosen for fast growth and high sugar, so food being grow today may have less natural acid in it than in grandma's day.

I've also heard of high acid foods being canned in the oven. Although efficient energy use may make this seem like a good choice, from the physics/chemistry perspective, water is better at transferring heat than air is. Since I don't have an easy way of testing for the acid level of a specific batch of food, I like the security of a traditional water bath for safe things and the pressure canner for iffy things.
 
steward
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I make bean pickles every year, bottled in a water-bath canner, using a tested recipe, and standardized 5% vinegar.

 
master steward
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Monique Tobias wrote:
   My grandma canned string beans using vinegar and she did it in the oven.



I have a recipe for "Granny's Green Beans"  that has vinegar as an ingredient.  When I fix these, everyone says they taste just like the ones their grandmother fixed. This recipe is not for pickled green beans or canning.

So I am wondering are the canned green beans that your Grandma canned taste like pickles? Or green beans?

If they are not pickled there may not be enough vinegar to make them high acid.

Jay said, "The vinegar is the key - it's changing a low acid food into a higher acid food and that prevents botulism from growing.



A lot of the recipes that were passed down to me from my grandmother were passed down from the previous generations.
Unfortunately, these recipes are not approved by USDA for canning so I don't share them with others.
 
Saralee Couchoud
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OK, I have never heard of pickled green beans but they sound wonderful. Would someone please post the recipe. Thank you in advance. I just love gardening season
 
Jay Angler
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Saralee Couchoud wrote:OK, I have never heard of pickled green beans but they sound wonderful. Would someone please post the recipe. Thank you in advance. I just love gardening season

The common recipe I've seen calls them "Dilly Beans". I don't happen to like the flavour of dill, so I substituted pickling spices I like - celery seed, mustard seed, pepper corns and a clove of garlic.

2 cups  Green or wax beans/per pint  
Boiling water

Spice as per above

1 cup Cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp coarse (pickling salt)

Place beans in a large pot of boiling water. Return to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse in cold water.

Put 1 head of dill and 1 garlic clove into each hot sterilized pint jar. Pack with beans to within 1 inch of top

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Pour over beans to within 1/4 inch of the top. Seal. Makes as many jars as you wish.

From Jean Pare's Preserves book.
 
Saralee Couchoud
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Jay I agree with you, I don't like dill either. Can these be made as sweet or bread and butter pickles?   Thank you for the recipe
 
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One thing I recently learned about vinegar is the acidity percentage has changed over the years. Prior to the 1970’s, standardized vinegar was 7%. Today it is 5%.

People canning ‘back in the day’ used a vinegar with a higher acidity.

So, today our foods are bred to be lower acid and vinegar is lower in acid, which is why some folks do not use canning recipes printed prior to 1994.
 
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At my local store the white vinegar is sold in 2 concentration strengths, 5% and 9% so you can probably dust off those old recipes as long as you choose the right vinegar.  
 
Angela Wilcox
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Casie, that is good to know! I treasure my dear mother’s canning book she got as a wedding present in 1961.
 
Jay Angler
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Casie Becker wrote:At my local store the white vinegar is sold in 2 concentration strengths, 5% and 9% so you can probably dust off those old recipes as long as you choose the right vinegar.  

Yes, it's very important to read the label! Here in Canada, the regular vinegar sold for the kitchen is also 5%. However, it's not hard to find the jugs labelled "Pickling Vinegar" and that is 7%. The Hardware Store sells "Cleaning Vinegar" - same company, but it's 10%. It doesn't say anywhere that it's not for human consumption and one of the uses they give is for cleaning a coffee maker of build up, so I suspect it's made in the same plant to the same standards.

Angela Wicox wrote:

Casie, that is good to know! I treasure my dear mother’s canning book she got as a wedding present in 1961.

It might be a good safety thing for the future to write in several spots near the beginning of the book that the recipes call for 7% vinegar. Who knows where that book may end up in another 60 years. My sister has a recipe book circa 1950 that was my mother's.

Saralee Couchoud wrote:

Jay I agree with you, I don't like dill either. Can these be made as sweet or bread and butter pickles?

I think the main, important difference is the first step - boiling the beans for 2 minutes. Essentially you are "blanching" which is partially cooking to stop some of the enzymes naturally existing in the beans. Most sweet pickle recipes won't tell you to do that. However, if you compare the ingredient ratio in the recipe I posted, and add sugar and other spices to that key ratio, you should be fine. Personally, since that recipe doesn't tell you to process in a boiling water bath, I'd err on the side of using 7% vinegar, or if that's not available, do the math to figure out how much more 5% vinegar added to how much less water gives you 7%. Pickles that taste too vinegary for your taste, can always be soaked in cold water just before serving - how long would be a taste issue. The key here is to be able to store them safely and reliably - acid does that. Within reason, what you do just before serving, isn't going to get you like botulism can! That said, too high a vinegar *is* an acid and can burn one's esophagus. This is why people who believe that a tablespoon of natural cider vinegar in the morning can help some illnesses, always mix it with water.
 
Saralee Couchoud
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Thank you. I am going to give them a try
 
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