I have been canning a lot of dried beans. They are so darned handy to have around. Just a couple of nights ago I made burritos. It I not had the home-canned beans around I could have used commercial beans. The downside is that they are so expensive compared to dried beans which are a great value. Most of the time, I decide I need beans at the last minute. They take so long to prepare from scratch that I almost never seem to make my meal plan far enough in advance to take advantage of the many pounds I have in storage. I often find that I have extra space in my canner when I’m putting up meat and, as they require the same processing time, I can pop in a jar of beans to fill up any extra slot. If the energy is being used anyway it makes sense to get the full value from it.

I have canned beans doing nothing but filling a jar halfway with beans and topping off with boiling water. I do a teaspoon of salt to each quart. This works well with fairly fresh beans but I have some pretty old stock. With older beans I get better results if I put the beans in a pot, cover with twice the volume of boiling water and cover. I let this sit for about an hour. The beans plump up nicely. Next, I fill my jars a bit more than half full of beans and top with fresh water. I will often use some of the tomato water I saved from juicing tomatoes last summer. I froze a lot of that. It is especially good in black and kidney beans as they are often cooked with tomatoes anyway. Now just can as you would can meat. That’s 10 pounds for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts at sea level. That’s it.

The results are not always pretty. Sometimes the fluid level drops a bit and it becomes cloudy but that has never affected the beans The burritos we ate were very good. My recipe is pretty easy. I fried up a [pound of hamburger and added my last bag of frozen corn, a jar of salsa and the black beans. I had so leftover peppers and onions so I threw them in. I also had a lonely mushroom that had seen better days so that was chopped up too. I tossed in some taco seasoning that needed to get used up and shredded Monterey jack over the hot filling. It’s one of those quick meals that hits the spot when you’re long on hungry but short on time. I have a lot left over so tonight I’m adding a small can of diced tomatoes and serving it with baked pita chips. Mondays are my busy day. I have my grandkids for the day, Bruce has woodworking in the evening and I have my permaculture meeting. Karen is stuck with the kitchen clean-up and getting Phoebe to bed so I try to make things easy on those nights.

We have two big house things going on. The gas people are coming today to hook up my stove in the canning kitchen. As we are ready to tap trees so we can boil up some syrup, the timing is good. Bruce also hired two contractors to do some needed work this spring. A section flat roof needs to be rebuilt. As long as there is already construction going on, We are going to pull out a wall in the living room and get it properly insulated and rebuild the chimney at the same time. The time is now for investing in the one thing I know will pay a good return and that’s my own house. It will look better but it will also be warmer and the roof will no longer leak. Yeah!

An offshoot of permaculture is a seed saving group. I’m really excited about this opportunity to learn more about saving my own seeds. As I look out the window I can see the sun peaking over the hill. The light is coming earlier, the birds are singing and, in spite of the chill in the air, there is a subtle shift. The earth is stirring and so am I. Before long we will be sharing stories of seed starting and ground preparation.