Canning Green Beans at Home
Wondering how to can green beans at home? Maybe you have questions about canning safety or you wonder if it’s cost-effective to can green beans. Or perhaps you’re not sure where to start at all.
There’s lots of information to get through in my post about canning green beans and canning is not a subject for brevity. If something isn’t clear, shoot me an email or drop a comment. This post will teach you how to can green beans safely. It covers the equipment you’ll need, how to decide how many jars to put up and the actual process of canning green beans.
Check out Is Canning Food Worth It? for a break down of the costs, in both time and money, to can 25 pounds of green beans (easily applicable to other foods!). It’s important to understand the economics of canning your own food so you maximize your resources.
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Let’s get this out of the way first.
Can you can green beans without a pressure canner?
Absolutely not. It’s a drag but it’s true.
You MUST use a pressure canner to safely can green beans. No matter what you may have read or been told, or what your great-granny might have done, current safe canning guidelines are very clear. Pressure canning is the ONLY way to put up green beans without risk of spoilage or botulism.
Presto and All-American both make top quality pressure canners. This 23 quart model from Presto is the updated version of the pressure canner I use and I can highly recommend it. It’s a great value, and with good care and handling, will last you for years.
But aren’t pressured canned green beans mushy?
One of the reasons people really want to water bath can green beans is because they want to process their beans for less time at a lower temperature. Shorter cooking times at lower temps do, of course, leave beans firmer. But if you choose larger, very crisp beans and process them as directed, including carefully controlling the rise and fall of the canner temp, your beans won’t be mushy or slimy.
Ok but I read somewhere that I could just water bath can green beans if I add some lemon juice to the jar for acid.
At this time, there is no safe, tested water bath canning recipe for green beans, even with acidification. Likewise, so-called oven canning green beans is also not safe. Neither water bath canning nor oven canning raise the temperature of the jars and the beans high enough to kill botulism.
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Why do you have to pressure can green beans?
Green beans, like most vegetables and some fruits, are low acid foods. Low acid foods do not inhibit the growth of botulism spores once they are canned. Because of this, they must be processed under pressure in order to reach a temperature of 240 degrees, which kills botulism spores. Water bath canning, which is safe for jams, jellies, fruits and tomatoes, relies on boiling water to sterilize and seal jars and the internal acidity of the food to prevent botulism. Boiling water alone simply cannot reach a high enough temperature to destroy botulism in low acid foods. So beans need to be pressure canned in order to be shelf-stable and free from botulism.
What do you need for canning green beans?
Besides a pressure canner, you need:
- Basic canning supplies like a canning rack, jar lifter and canning funnel.
- Glass canning jars, either pint or quart sized – I prefer to do beans by the quart, it’s more efficient
- Brand new canning lids, wide or regular mouthed, depending on your jar opening or use reusable canning lids
- Raw, fresh green beans – the beans should be in perfect condition and should have the stems and strings removed. It’s best to break beans into 1-2″ pieces so they fit in the jars more easily
- A very large stock pot
- Canning/picking salt
Check out What You Need for Canning Food for information on essential canning supplies.
How many pounds of green beans do I need for canning?
Research suggested that for every quart of beans I wanted to can, I would need two pounds of raw beans. Based on that, I bought 25 pounds of green beans, enough for 12 quarts.
That is a lot of beans, friends. In the picture above, that’s one single pound of Romano green beans.
Because these beans were larger, it only took one pound of raw beans per quart jar, doubling my yield. Assume you will need 1-2 pounds of beans per quart. But know that the size of the beans will change how many jars you end up with. If you want to be very precise, pack one jar with your beans, then dump the beans out and weigh them. That will give you a good idea of how many jars you’ll end up with.
A quart is about four cups of beans, once processed. That’s not an exact number but it’s close enough if you’re trying to figure out how many quarts of beans you’ll need.
How do I figure out how many quarts of beans to can?
Start by working backwards. If you regularly eat green beans, figure out how often you eat them (i.e. weekly, a couple times a month, daily, etc). Take that number and multiply it by how many month’s worth of beans you want to store. So if you eat green beans twice a month, and you want to put up enough beans to last six months, you’ll know that’s 12 servings of beans. Based on that, figure out how many pounds, bags or cans you eat at a time. Multiply the quantity you eat per time by the number of servings and you’ll have a rough idea how many quarts you need total.
Here’s an example:
My husband and I generally eat a two pound bag of green beans per week. Based on that, I knew we’d need a quart of beans per week over the winter, about 20 weeks. That’s (very) roughly 25-30 quarts of green beans.
I couldn’t quite see buying 60 pounds of green beans all at once. So I decided to aim for about half of that. Which is still a LOT of beans. As noted above, the larger size meant I ended up with double the quarts.
Make sure you have enough room to store all the beans you want to can. Use my post How much space do you need to store food? to see how much room full jars take up and what a quart of beans weighs.
How to pressure can green beans
If the idea of using a pressure canner and having to deal with bushels of raw beans hasn’t scared you off, great news! The actual process of canning green beans is pretty easy. The first step is to clean the beans and break them into small pieces. Then you’ll be packing the beans into jars, then processing them under pressure. While it might seem like a lot of steps, pressuring canning green beans is pretty straightforward and I’m going to take you through the whole process.
How to make processing beans manageable
The key to canning anything efficiently is to work in batches and to complete tasks in stages.
Start by cleaning all of the raw beans. The easiest way is to dump them into a very clean sink and let them soak in cold water for a couple of hours. The beans should be free of any soil, insects or debris. Depending on the size of your sink, you may need to clean them in batches.
TIP – use the bean water to water your garden or plants – just fill a pitcher or watering can out of the sink after you’ve removed the beans.
Once clean, cut off both ends and then cut the beans into 1″ pieces. Some people just break off the ends and snap the beans with their hands but I use kitchen scissors. If your beans have strings, you’ll need to remove those, too. It’s much easier to just buy or grow stringless beans if possible.
It doesn’t matter how you take off the ends or break them down but it’s a darned tedious process so find a way to do it that doesn’t make you miserable. Personally, my fingers get very sore after breaking beans, and scissors make the process much easier for me.
Pressure canning green beans
As you’re nearing the end of breaking down your beans, fill your stock pot with water and let come up to a boil. Put a lid on the pot, it will help the water boil faster. Then get your pressure canner set up and ready – refer to your owner’s manual and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Most pressure canners only need a couple of inches of water in them, but check your manual.
Canning jars must be clean and warm before you fill them. The pressure canner and the stock pot take up most of the stove-top, so I just put my empty jars in the oven and set it to “keep warm”. That warms the jars without taking up any extra space. You can also warm jars by using a pot of warm water, but as mentioned, that takes up premium space. Although your jars, lids and bands must be very, very clean it is not necessary to sterilize them. Clean and warm is fine.
Hot pack or cold pack for canning green beans?
There’s two methods for actually packing the beans into the jars, hot pack and cold pack. Both are safe, so it’s a matter of preference.
How to hot pack green beans for canning
Place the raw, processed beans into the stock pot and bring to a boil for five minutes. Pack the boiling beans and water into the warm jars. Leave a 1″ head space in the jar. Remove air bubbles with a wooden chopstick or bubble tool. Wipe the rim of the jar, then put on the lid and tighten the band.
Because boiling the beans can help release trapped air, some people prefer hot packing as a way to reduce siphoning.
How to cold pack green beans for canning
Place uncooked beans directly into the warm jar. Once the jar is full of beans, ladle in boiling water. Like hot packing, leave 1″ of headspace, remove bubbles and apply lid and tighten band.
Some people feel hot packing jars allows a few more beans per jar. Others feel cold packed beans are less mushy. I’ve done both methods and I prefer the cold pack. I found it easier to pack the jars tightly when the beans weren’t scalding hot.
Reduce siphoning when canning green beans
Siphoning is when some (or all, yikes) of the liquid in the canning jar evaporates during processing. It’s vital to make sure the headspace is correct and to remove those air bubbles. But here’s another trick to reduce siphoning. After I fully pack the jars with raw beans, I fill them most of the way with boiling water and I wait a minute or two. The beans quickly blanch in the boiling water, and I can usually fit in few more per jar. I very gently press the beans to encourage air trapped inside each bean to escape. Some beans, especially big ones, like Romanos, can actually hold a lot of air. Getting some of that air out before you close up the jar and process them reduces siphoning.
It’s safe to eat canned food that’s lost liquid as long as the jar is still at least half full.
No matter how you do it, pack in as many beans as possible but not so many that you’re mashing the beans. And be sure to leave that inch of headspace.
Why do I need canning salt?
If you wish, you can put a teaspoon of canning salt into each jar. This is optional but I highly recommend it. The flavor of the beans will be dramatically improved. As a kid, I did not like home canned green beans and it’s because my grandparents skipped the salt when they canned. (it was the 80’s, my family were all convinced salt and butter were deadly).
Unless you have a safe, tested canning recipe, you can’t add anything else to the jar. Beans, water and salt, that’s it. Adding other things can potentially keep the jar contents from reaching the necessary temperature.
The Ball New Book of Canning has several tested, safe green bean recipes, including garlic lemon green beans. If the idea of plain green beans isn’t appealing, check some out the book. I’ve enjoyed all of the variations but still like to can some plain, salted quarts.
How to Load the Pressure Canner
It’s show time! After hours of playing with these beans, it’s time to can them.
I’m not going to dig super deep into using a pressure canner because you should refer to your specific canner’s manual for that but here’s an overview of using a pressure canner.
Your canner should have a rack that goes into the bottom. If it doesn’t you’ll need to buy one because it’s not a good idea to sit jars directly on the canner bottom.
Maximum Pressure Canner Load
Check to see what the maximum load is for your canner and pack that many jars. Funny story – my canning rack has neat compartments for four quarts, so I just assumed one canned in four quart loads. Nope. My canner (a Presto from the 1970’s) holds 7 quarts. Check your manual, you’ll kick yourself if you find out you could have been working more jars per load, trust me.
There’s also a minimum load, two quarts. Don’t run your canner with less than two full quarts.
Processing the beans in the pressure canner
Load your canner, close it up and follow your canner’s directions to start building pressure. In many cases, the canner should simmer for 5-10 minutes before the pressure valve is inserted – if your manual advises this, don’t skip this step.
Once the desired pressure is reached (11-14 psi, depending on your altitude), maintain that pressure for the appropriate amount of time, per this chart from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It’s important to keep the canner pressure consistent in order to ensure the food reaches and maintains the correct internal temperature. Consistent pressure, along with gradual increases or decreases in pressure, help to reduce siphoning, too.
When the processing time is complete, let the canner depressurize completely before you open the lid. Turn the lid away from you so the escaping steam doesn’t hit you in the face. Remove the jars carefully with a jar lifter and let them sit for 12-24 hours. If you’re canning with reusable lids, this is the time to tighten them.
That’s the basic process for selecting, processing and canning green beans. If you are new to canning or new to pressure canning, I would encourage you to seek out more in-depth information on canning from experts. With canning, safety is paramount and you really can’t be over-informed.
Recommended Canning Experts
Melissa K. Norris, Pioneering Today – she’s a canning expert who offers free resources as well as classes.
Jill Winger, Prairie Homestead – also a canning expert with free resources and classes.
Both Jill and Melissa have podcasts and YouTube channels, as well. They know their way around a canner AND they’re really good at teaching what they know.
I also rely on the Ball Canning Book, it’s a great resource and this updated edition also has some really interesting and tasty recipes.
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