We share lots of memories during our workdays. This was so great that Diane, our e-designer, agreed to contribute it to Country Life. Hope you all enjoy it as well.Â –Editor
While my brother and I were growing up, my family always had a garden. For a long time it was a good-sized garden. My mom would can lots of things: green beans, peas, corn, beets, tomato sauce, tomato juice, and sometimes salsa.We would also go to a local orchard to get peaches and apples to can (and also make applesauce!)
As the years go by, the garden has gotten smaller and smaller. Mom found it easier and cheaper to purchase many of our canned goods. But still would grow green beans and corn for canning and freezing.
Recently my mom and I went out to my cousins’ place to relieve them of the overabundance of green beans. We took a bushel basket full of beans (and that was the tip of the iceberg for them!) We then went to my grandmother’s apartment in town to snap them. Grandma just had hip replacement surgery so for her to sit up and do something different than reclining was good.We sat there and did about two thirds of that bushel basket.
As we were snapping, I remembered the game my brother and I would play with Mom as we would be working outside snapping beans. We played Who/What/When/Where/Why. Two of us would think of WHO or WHAT, for instance, and the remaining one would think of the why. When we put into a sentence, it always came up with something goofy or funny. Or at least it was to my brother and me. Who knows what Mom thought! At least it made the task of snapping all those green beans go much faster. As I talked about that, Mom looked at Grandma, and said, â€œSounds familiar, huh?â€ Guess those games weren’t so original.
After the picked beans were tailed and snapped (which basically means broken down into half inch or so lengths), Mom would dump them into a sink of cold water to wash off all the dirt and grass. As a kid, I always enjoyed â€œstirringâ€ the beans with my hands in the sink. It felt so funny! We would mix them around for a while trying to get as much dirt off as we could.
While my brother and I â€œstirredâ€ the beans, Mom would prep the jars. We would store all of the empty jars in the basement upside-down and once they were needed, bring them upstairs to the kitchen. Mom wash them well, rinse in very hot water, and let them air dry in preparation for being packed. She also put the lids and bands into a hot water bath to sanitize them for canning.Putting the beans in the jars was tricky. We did use a wide-mouth funnel to help get those raw beans in there, but you still need to pack them down snugly. Mom would always have a kitchen towel folded up and would firmly pound the jars to get the beans to pack down further. Once the jars were full up to the neck with beans, we would add salt and fill with hot water to just before the neck of the jar. Then Mom would use a dinner knife around the edges of the jar to get the air bubbles out.*
After that, the dome lid and bands went on and the jars went into the pressure canner. My Mom has an old Mirro CannerÂ that has a weight to regulate the pressure. No animal in our house liked the sound of that thing. Our cats would hide upstairs and the dog would stay away from the house until it was all done. In my mind, I can still hear that thing rattling away.
After 20 minutes of pressure cooking and then cooling down, Mom would take the packed jars out of the canner with her jar lifter and put them on the counter. She would tell us, â€œListen to hear if they ‘pop.’â€ We would listen intently for a while until we got fidgety and go do something else.
In the middle of winter, mom would tell us to go to the basement to â€œget a jar of green beansâ€ for dinner. They were (and still are!) easy to fix for dinner. Open a jar, warm them up, and serve! We love the taste of these green beans so much that no commercially canned bean could compare. My sister-in-law has become a lover of those green beans too. Now she’s joining in on the fun of canning them.
*I would DEFINITELY recommend the Ball Blue Book for how to can your garden produce. It is detailed and has lots of information in it. Hope you have had a Happy Bean Season!