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.