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Green beans; Can in boiling water bath?

Jeanine Gurley

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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?

1. my projects

Joined: Apr 21, 2011
Posts: 18
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. 

Joined: Jan 24, 2011
Posts: 49
Location: Elmira, ny
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.
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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. 

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6895
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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.
John Crawford

Joined: Jun 06, 2011
Posts: 19
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

Joined: Dec 20, 2009
Posts: 148
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?

Joined: Jun 29, 2010
Posts: 79
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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.
Kat deZwart

Joined: Aug 13, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Limburg, Netherlands, sandy loam
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).

subject: Green beans; Can in boiling water bath?