Friday, June 8, 2012

Convenience Canning and Production Cooking - Not for the Faint of Heart

I love the idea of Production Cooking - making large batches of something, then preserving it by freezing or canning - for later use.  It can be a lot of work for one person.  I've been trying to recruit a group of people who would like to get together, each bring the ingredients for a dish, and have fun while assembling casseroles or whatnot, then freezing them.  This concept works for business (Let's Dish) and I think it would be fun.  I have thus far had no takers.  Sister Dana would be interested, but she lives 10 hours away.

I remember back when I was a teenager, my mother was in the hospital and my Dad had to run the household for a while. His idea of cooking was to do it up Big (I guess that's where I get this from). Being retired from the Air Force, he liked to shop at the Base Commissary occasionally. Since it was about an hour and a half drive, he really loaded up when he went. He sent me and Dana to the commissary when my mother was in the hospital. I am not sure if we ever found it... I think we got lost. To this day I still remember one of my Dad's Production Cooking sessions during that time. He decided that rather than making our school lunches each morning, it would be more convenient to make a month's worth at one time and freeze them. Sounds like a great idea, but the reality is, the sandwiches were soggy when lunchtime rolled around and we wouldn't eat them.  So sometimes a good idea just doesn't work out as planned.
When cooking for two, it's hard to cut down a recipe when you're making a casserole or chicken and dumplings, so now I buy those inexpensive throw away pans and make multiple casseroles at one time and freeze the extras. It's nice to be able to pull one out for a quick and easy dinner.

In my food stockpile I probably have enough beans to last us for many years, but dried beans take a lot of forethought and work. So I thought - why not can beans to have on hand? I had just bought a pressure canner and had great success canning meats, so it made perfect sense.

I follow a blog called The Iowa Housewife. These two sisters cover various topics such as gardening, cooking, canning, etc. The blog has a sort of vintage 50's vibe to it which I love. They reference some of the vintage cookbooks that I have, which is kinda cool - like the 1973 version of the Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook. They have lots of canning, preserving and production cooking recipes and information on their blog. But they don't have a recipe for canning beans... yet.

If you know anything at all about me, it's that I always read directions, and follow them.  With home canning, I want to be absolutely sure that I follow the rules.  I have about 5 versions of The Ball Blue Book - considered the "bible" of home canning.  I have a really neat version from the 60's that I got FREE at the Half Price Bookstore.  It was in MINT condition!  Stephanie gave me a new version this past Christmas, along with other canning related items.  I used this new version for my bean canning recipe.

The recipe in the Ball Blue Book says for each Quart, use 2-1/4 pounds of dried beans.  That sounded like a lot, but hey, they're the experts.  Well, since I wanted to do a full canner load, 7 quarts, I needed 15-3/4 pounds of beans.  I wanted to cook a little extra for dinner so I measured out a little over 16 pounds of beans.  SIXTEEN pounds of beans I said.

Then the directions say to boil the soaked beans for 30 minutes.  I have a lot of kitchen gadgetry, more than most people, but do you think I own a pot that will hold SIXTEEN pounds of beans??  Of course not - no one does.  So I got out every pot I had and started cooking beans. 

Fast forward to the canning process.  I did indeed get some quarts of beans canned.  They turned out like some sort of bean-concrete product, all turned to mush.  They all went in the trash.  That was the first load of 7 quarts.  What of the other beans?  By this time I was exhausted and it seemed as if the beans were multiplying in my kitchen - I had pots of beans everywhere.  I was inundated with beans!  So what did I do?  Throw them ALL in the compost heap of course.  Unfortunately my husband was on hand to witness the entire event.  Wisely he didn't make any comments.

Not only did I waste all those beans but my kitchen was a complete disaster!  I looked back at every Ball Blue Book I had and they all had the same recipe for beans.  SURELY it wasn't my mistake, so I wrote to Ball.  I got this nice email in response:

"Dear Tracy:

We sincerely apologize for the printing error in the Ball Blue Book and the inconvenience caused you. The correct amount for the dried beans is “¾ pounds dried beans or peas per quart”.

This error will be corrected in the next printing of the book. To express our concern, we are mailing to you under separate cover product coupons for you to use with our compliments.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Consumer Affairs
Jarden Home Brands"

THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS MATTER TO OUR ATTENTION?????  So for DECADES home canners have used this recipe and no one noticed the error??  Did they just scratch their heads thinking they had made the mistake, not Ball?

And what of the "product coupons" I would receive in the mail?  I received ONE coupon for $5 off jars or yet ANOTHER version of the Ball Blue Book.  Bahahahahahah!


  1. You are pretty amazing to do all that work, canning and such!

  2. That sounds really frustrating, but at least you managed to get a fun-to-read blog post out of it!

  3. Tracy, I pulled my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving off the shelf and checked the recipe for canning pinto beans and peas. It says 3 to 5 POUNDS of beans per quart jar! Scary and costly mistake if it is in every Ball Canning book. Mine is copyrighted 2006, but I just purchased several months ago. Thank you for posting their letter to you!