Four Letters Re: Cooking Beans and Canning Meat

Marie H. wrote a great article, however, it is imperative to remember that elevation plays a huge part in canning whether pressure canning or boiling water bath canning. So, if anyone above 1,000 feet above sea level elevation is canning beans, meat of vegetables that require pressure canning – using just Marie’s advice could be toxic. Improper canning whether in amount of pressure and/or time cooked could cause Botulism – a very deadly toxin. It is very important to follow the directions in a good canning book, preferably the Ball Book of Home Preserving, as the pressure for higher elevations is adjusted to 15 pounds of pressure for higher elevations and the time is adjusted to 90 minutes in the pressure canner. Also, in higher elevations a larger volume pressure canner is advised rather than an 8 or 10 quart size. At least a 16 quart pressure canner is best for higher elevations. The time in a boiling water bath canner is also increased. These very clear instructions are always listed in the canning books. Reading the directions that come with the canner and a good canning book is imperative. People too often forget and use the instructions where they live forgetting that we have a variety of elevations all across America. That needs to be paid attention to. – Pat B.


Dear Editor:
Take care when cleaning jars or glasses, I had a large mouth break while I was running my hand (with washcloth) around the inside. Something around six stitches at the emergency room later, lesson learned. The loss of the use of a hand could mean life or death in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

A lesson I learned when I fist moved out on my own. When pre-soaking beans to cook in a pot, I soaked the beans over night like my grandmother told me, where the problem came in I decided to add my salt and spices (you know like marinating meat). No amount of cooking would make the beans soft or edible, my grandmother set me right on what I did wrong telling me to never add salt, spices or meat to beans when they are soaking makes the beans hard as rocks. Not sure if that rule applies to all spices but I treat the rule as law from my grandmother. – Don G.


Just a couple thoughts regarding Gary M.’s feed corn question.  In my area (upper midwest), nearly every hardware store and gas station sells 40# bags of shelled corn as deer bait around hunting season.  It appears to be dent corn, but not certain.  I don’t buy the stuff.  But I do store a couple (food grade) plastic barrels of field corn that I purchase from a local feed store.  It is dent corn, and its intended use is livestock feed.  A 55 gallon barrel holds about 250#.

Besides its intended use, I also store it for use in hard times as bait (deer and turkey, plus lots and lots of blue jays), alcohol, pet food extender, barter, charity, and food, as a last resort.

Without going too far off-topic, we also keep a couple 50# bags of black oil sunflower seeds around as the Mrs. is an avid bird/wildlife watcher. It’s a bit more expensive for the black oilers, but she just didn’t get the variety of wildlife when she tried the “wild bird seed” mixes. With this regular source of quality food available, our visitors include doves, squirrels, raccoons, porcupines, and black bears. Easy protein, without leaving the yard. Sprouting is an option as well. [JWR Adds: Not all seed will sprout. Keep in mind that some bird seed is heat sterilized to prevent germination.] – Bruce C.


Mr. Rawles:
Marie states “Place the jars into your pressure canner and then add water to the canner so that it covers the top of the jars by at least ¼.” All of the instructions I have read, and the canning I have done with a pressure canner is to put the jars in the canner and fill with water to about two to three inches deep. I only cover the jars when I am water bath canning.   That is one of the beauties of pressure canning. You use a small amount of water and the pressure does the work. – Paulette


I understand that the main intent of her article was to promote home canning, but it is unfortunate that Marie H. has had bad experiences with older pressure cookers. It is obvious that she is speaking about the most primitive and dangerous rubber bullet type, which I don’t think is even made anymore or at least not available for import to the US. My advice is do not use pressure cookers that use the rubber bullet “geyser of boiling food” plug system. Additionally, always clean and inspect your primary and secondary pressure valve (if there is one), just as you would check your weapon before use. Like a firearm, a pressure cooker is designed to safely use potentially dangerous pressures in a safe way every day.

Modern, safe, pressure cookers should be certified by the Underwriters Laboratories if purchased in the US. The UL has a very strict testing program. The Spanish Fagor and Swiss Khun Rikon have a specially engineered series of pressure valves, and the gasket will deform and release pressure as a last safety, before the pressure could ever get to a dangerous level. I own several of the UL-certified Indian-made Hawkins cookers, sometimes sold under the Premier brand. I sometimes leave them running in my kitchen for several hours on electric heat while I work at my desk. I know the sounds the cooker should make, and I adjust the heat and ensure a proper liquid level before leaving the room. The Hawkins uses a very effective low-melting point metal fuse plug. I keep a strip of replacement melt plugs, along with my replacement gaskets. I have only blown one, by overcooking some rice in a 1.5L cooker without enough water in it. Pressure cookers are often over $100 for the best European brands. These cookers are real lifetime friends, made of heavy stainless steel. There may be other inexpensive cookers for less than $100, but I was able to get a 1.5L and a 5L Hawkins classic Aluminum cooker for $50. They are heavy and thick but well engineered. Some of the other inexpensive pressure cookers available are of questionable quality, with lighter walls reducing the pressure capacity below the standard 15 psi, making them almost worthless. Hawkins also makes higher-end aluminum and stainless steel cookers. The best thing about Hawkins is that they make all replacement parts available for retail, something rarely seen from most manufacturers these days. In the end, I suggest pressure cooker users keep an eye on their pots until they learn how long is required to cook their food. Most pressure cooking takes less than an hour in any case. Shalom and Chanukkah Somayach, – David in Israel