How to Can Green Beans: Canning Tips

July 18, 2006 at 10:57 pm 117 comments

This post gets a lot of traffic and has been helpful to many people.  That’s great!  Let me just address a couple things, however.

1. I have NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE WATERBATH METHOD.  Please don’t email or comment asking me how to do that.  This is the plain ole canning method only.

2.  If your beans turn cloudy or milky, I have no idea why…you’ll have to search further.  I’ve never had that problem.  Only thing I know to suggest is to make sure you are using iodized salt and have your bands tight enough.



In short:  10 Pounds for 25 minutes

Step by step:

Intro: This bean’s for you.  My mother canned, my grandmother canned, and my in laws all can.  Thus, I can.  We have the best recipe in the world by now, of course!  Here are the details, step by step.

Disclaimer: Note that I am not a professional and am not responsible for misinformation or accidents, though I’ve edited this 4-5 times to try to be sure and have done it many years.  Double check with other respectable sites.  I’m happy to try to answer questions you may have…simply post questions in the comment section.  Enjoy!

1.  Pick, Break, & String the Beans. If treated with insecticide (locally, primarily for Japanese Beatle prevention), wait until after a rain to pick, or according to insecticide directions. Rinse green beans thoroughly and allow to dry before breaking.  Or, some people rinse after breaking to avoid strings sticking to the beans. I use a strainer to rinse green beans for ease–you can just use a clean sink full of cool water.  Cool water keeps the beans crisp.

Stringing: I string by pulling the tip off the end, string that side, then turn the bean to the other end, pull that side.  Now, if the string breaks before it reaches the end of the bean, no problem…as you break the bean, you will also be aware of any string still there and pull it them.  Get all the string off that you can.

Break beans–we break into three pieces.

If it takes a while to break all your beans, and you have the refridgerator space, they stay more crisp and easier to break if chilled.  Cut off bad spots with a sharp knife kept handy.  My younger children pass to me any beans that need trimming, or put them in a bowl for me.

Just peel any very soft, or over-ripe beans that will not break, using only the beans, unless you don’t like the beans.  Discrad any shriveled, “shucky” (very thick skinned, overgrown beans), or overly flat beans–they tend to be chewy.

2.  While others are breaking beans, or during a break if you’re stringing them yourself (bless your heart) begin washing jars in as HOT a sink of water as you can stand…at least rinsing in almost scalding water. If you have a dishwasher, use that to disinfect the bottles.  Go ahead and let them go through the “dry” cycle.  Also, wash any older or used bands in hot water or run through dishwasher.

When you get close to the time of canning, you will put the lids and bands in a pan of simmering water.

3.  Determine if your jars are WIDE mouth, or “regular” mouth jars.  Wide mouth jars, the rims are just about even with the jar…regular mouth jars go in to about 1/3 the size of the perimeter of the rest of the jar.

Buy appropriate lids for your jars, or buy everything together in a box if you are totally new to canning.  Most stores sell them that way as well.  They are not that much more expensive and worth it to continue working rather than wondering about the cost if the beans are ready.  If you find jars at a flea market or yard sale, BALL jars or some other name brand are best…you know they are standard and suitable for canning.

Special note:  if you’ve bought a mixed batch of used jars, please BE SURE to weed out any jars that look like a mayonnaise jar…sometimes they get mixed in and ARE NOT suitable for the pressure of a canner.

If you have jars, find or obtain matching sized BANDS (screw on rings that go over the lids), buy them with lids (they are also commonly available as sets at some farm supply stores that carry canning goods, and our grocery stores also have a section) or send hubby running to your local grocer or supermarket.

To save money, yearly you can buy just new lids and re-use the rings.

If you buy a canner used (often availabe at flea markers, some with great, heavy, wooden handles), we took mine to a cooperative extension office to have them pressure it up for you to make sure the pressure guage is accurate.  Mine was just a few pounds off.  Not enough to worry about as it was over.  I wouldn’t want to underpressure them or blow the rook off the house.  Your canner needs to hold quarts, and it needs to go up to at least 10 pounds.  It will be a pretty good sized canner.  My canner holds seven quarts, I believe.  That’s a great size canner for a good canning.

4.  If you can from year to year, you’ll need to allote time to locate your canner and it’s gasket (check to be sure your gasket hasn’t gotten dry rot.  They are very elastic and prone to breakage if they’ve been stored outside or in a barn.  My advice is to NOT store the gasket outside for this reason.  Leave the gasket in your pans or towel drawer.  Make a mental note and store it in the same place every year.  The year you decide there is a better place to store it, you will probably never be able to find it and it will drive you crazy.

Locate pressure guage (probably attached to the cooker lid of a large canner).  Locate the screw down metal stopper that stops the pressure hold of the canner lid (mine is also attached).  Wash lid, checking to BE SURE the pressure hole is clear of any debris from last year’s canning.

(Note:  pre-test to see how many jars your canner will hold so that you know how many jars, lids, and bands to prepare).

beans6.jpg5.  As you get close to canning, put small sauce pan of water on to boil.  Do not boil lids, but keep them nice and hot at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes…use only the number you need.  This softens the seal on the lids.  TRY NOT TO STACK LIDS, BUT SCATTER THEM, AS SHOWN.  You don’t want them to adhere to one another.

6.  In advance, as lids begin warming, fill your canner about quarter way full of water.  Turn on heat to begin warming the water. Don’t get it TOO hot yet…don’t want to break any jars with too much a temp change as you put the jars in later.  Warm jars and warm lids help ensure a seal as the lids make contact with the water.  I have used clean, room temperature jars with no problems, however.

7.  Obtain/find either plain salt or “canning salt” (for use in #9).


8.  After you’ve rinsed the beans, fill jars with beans!  I fill to the full.  Some “tamp” beans down with a butter knife to pack them tight.  We never eat a full jar anyway, so I’m not to prone to tamp mine.

beans81.jpg9.  Add desired salt to beans.  I use 1/4 tsp. of canning salt OR 1 tsp. of regular salt PER JAR. Some say regular iodized salt can turn some veggies brown.  I’ve never found with beans and it seems to work, therfore, if I’m short, I exchange.

Add warm water to jars if you are close to time of canning —3/4 full of a WIDE mouth jar, or approximately to the curve of a ‘REGULAR MOUTH” jar.

beans10.jpg10.  With a clean towel, wipe the rim of each jar after adding salt to clean off any granules which may have stuck on the rim BEFORE adding the lids.  Granules of stray salt can keep lids from adhering.

beans11.jpg11.  Lift hot lids out of the water carefully separating with a fork.  Use a towel or fingers to place the lid on the jar.  Add the band tightly while the lid is still hot.

12.  Note:  At each stage, check for integrity of the glass jars.  Old jars CAN crack.  Do not use a jar with a nick in the rim…the lid will not seal. Even new jars can have a defect.  IF a jar cracks when you put it in the water…ALL the food (beans) HAVE to be cleaned back out of it before you pressure up the canner. Otherwise, a bean could stop up the pressure valve release hole, which is not a good thing.

beans12.jpg13.  Lift the jar of filled beans into the warming water in the canner.  Some canners hold 6 Qt, mine holds 7 Qts. (I sometimes use a towel if the water has gotten quite hot in case the glass breaks when it hits hot water).

beans14.jpg14.  After all jars are in place, place the canning gasket in canner lid if you didn’t before. I often do not get mine positioned in the correct groove the first time, but you can tell by the way the lid fits on mine that something is wrong.  There is usually a very narrower groove for it lower– where I’m pointing in the picture. If it doesn’t seem to be coming up to pressure when the lid is on, take the lid back off, using towels on your hands, and inspect the gasket. It may need to be stretched to fit, or have grease or oil added to it to promote elasticity and swelling.  Stretch it using some muscle, but not overly--you don’t want it too loose to fit.  Stretch and re-retry several times until it seems right.  A tiny bit of excess can be crammer in, but not a draping gasket.  Gaskets are also commonly available in different sizes at stores that carry extensive arrays of canning supplies.  I’ve also borrowed family member’s at times.

beans15.jpg15.  Place the lid on the canner.  Turn it to lock it.  Now, usually, there is a “lock” indicator, sometimes with an arrow telling you which way to twist on the heavy lid.  It is cumbersome.  You will have to use potholders, so try not to have the pan too hot.

You can perhaps see if you look closely in the picture where the lines line up on the canner helping you align the lid.  NOTE:  MY OLDER CANNER LID WILL NOT GO ON THE POT UNLESS THE POT ITSELF IS FACING ME CORRECTLY WITH THE WORDS “OPEN” AND “CLOSE” ON THE  POT SHOWING ME WHERE TO PUT THE LID ON.  Newer canners it likely doesn’t matter.   Put the lid on, twist it clockwise slightly and feel it tighten down.

16.  Check to be sure the steam vent value is on the lid and is unscrewed to OPEN position. I’ve put mine on after it starts steaming if I’ve forgotten it, but you really have to watch carefully for steam burns doing this.  It’s advisable to reduce heat before putting it on if you forget.

17. Once the pressure canner starts to steam, allow it to rise to “FULL STEAM” for 3 minutes. Full steam means that you’ll see steam “shooting” out of the canner straight as opposed to little “puffs”.  You’ll hear it no longer sound like a train, but a solid spray of steam.  Be patient and don’t get scared…it’s okay as long as the pressure guage is still at reasonable levels.  What this is doing is getting excess air out of the canner to create the pressure. 

THEN tighten down the steam valve and watch the canner pressure guage closely until it rises to 10 pounds (assuming your canner’s gauge tested accurately, see notes above).  Then tighten down the air pressure valve by turning it with your finger.  Now, the canner is “pressured up”.

Lower your heat to about 1 or LOW on most oven dials.   WATCH CAREFULLY.  DO NOT LEAVE THE KITCHEN OR BE READING EMAIL OR IT WILL GET AWAY FROM YOU.  You don’t want to potentially blow a hole through the room of your home.  Start timer for 25 minutes. You may have to increase or decrease heat to keep it around 10 poundsBE SURE you have turned the heat down before closing off the pressure valve!

18. After 25 minutes, you can turn off the heat, allowing the canner to cool. (During canning,  I usually try to not have the kids running and jumping in the kitchen, just in case.)   Let the canner cool.  DO NOT FORCE THE LID OPEN BEFORE THE CANNER HAS COOLED. You don’t want it to blow your head off or anything ugly.

You may try to take the lid off after pressure is at 0.  I usually try to leave my jars there if I have time and let them sit a while, even overnight or while I’m out. If you need to take them out hot in order to continue canning more beans, use two towels, one on top of the jar, and one supporting the bottom of the jar as you remove the jar from the canner.  If the jar breaks or has developed a crack during canning, you don’t get splashed as debris hits the hot water.  If a jar breaks, take the other jars out, clean out the canner (after it cools and you can handle it, and continue on.

19.  Sit the jars on dry towels folded in half (NOT cool, damp towels!). Jarsy are hot, this gives them a “cushion” when you sit them down.  BE CAREFUL AND GENTLE, THEY ARE NOT YET ‘SEALED DOWN’ COMPLETELY. You may or may not hear “popping” as the lids seal down.  DO NOT TAKE THE BANDS OFF THE JARS UNTIL THE LIDS NO LONGER “POP UP” WHEN YOU PUSH ON THEM and the jars are cooled. If the lids still do not “stay down” after sitting overnight, the jar did not seal.  Just stick it in the fridge and eat it in a day or two if it did not seal, leaving the band intact.

I canned 21 jars and only one did not seal.

20.  Label the lids with a permanent marker with the year (and type of bean, if you use several varieties). After you sample the seasons produce for sun, cook your oldest canned jars first.  They store a very long time…if they are discolored or have a funky smell, you know it’s time to throw them away.

21.  Wash and store canner and bands.  Again, do not store the gasket outside…it’s more prone to dry out.  I take my bands off my jars; some leave them together.  I don’t own that many.  I just take them off and keep the bands and extra lids in a plastic grocery bag with the canner.  You can use the bands over and over through several cannings if necessary.

I hope this has been helpful to you.  Note that I am not responsible for misinformation or accidents, though I’ve edited this 4-5 times to try to be sure.  Double check with other respectable sites.  I’m happy to try to answer questions you may have.  Simply comment.


I forgot to add the salt, now what? Well, the salt is a biG part of the preservative.  Therefore, you need to set these jars aside on your cabinet and use them first.  They should last a few months, but I wouldn’t store them long term without salt.  Also, bump your seasoning up to compensate as you cook them.  I like to add a tsp of salt, a dash of pepper, and for GREAT beans, a strip of bacon cooked in it, or some left over reserved bacon grease.

I broke a jar, now what? That’s in the article above.  No need to panic.  It happens. Just be careful, and no, you don’t need to eat the beans in the pot, there may be glass in there.  Clean out the canner good before you continue to can with it.  Stray beans can clog the vent hole prematurely.

A jar didn’t seal: Check this article.  Use these beans for supper, or store a few days in the frig.  If there are many, review the process here to make sure you are covering everything.

Why do I hear a funny rattle of jars hitting together inside the canner? Because some jars are narrower than others if you aren’t using standard canning jars.  They will knock against each other until you get the canner up to pressure.  I set the canner to a bit lower heat early on to minimize this and reduce the chances of breaking a jar.

Can I Can Less Than a Full Canner? I usually just fix a big “mess” of beans or share when a neighbor when this happens.  Theoretically, you can as long as the canner is balanced.  Especially if you are only missing the “center” jar, it will probably can fine.  Less than that, and I probably wouldn’t mess with it.

I Can’t Get the Lid ON My Canner! Spin the pot itself toward you and see if your canner requires the pot to face you.  It may have words like “open” and “close” to help you.

All the water drained from my jars! You probably did not screw the bands on tight enough.  Tighten them as tight as you can by hand without over-tightening.  You can still use them, but I’d use them first, as they are prone to drying out faster.

Thanks for stopping by!  Let me know how it works out for you.

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117 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sherry  |  August 10, 2012 at 11:16 am

    When water bath canning, BE SURE TO COVER THE ENTIRE JAR!

    Be sure to store jars with or without rings (I leave mine on as I have plenty of them) in a COOL, DRY AREA, such as the basement.

    I have been canning the waterbath method for over 40 years. I first, place my snapped (1″) and cleaned green beans in a pot and cover them with JUST ENOUGH WATER to cover them COMPLETELY. Add salt to taste, BUT DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH! Taste the water before you continue. And yes, BE SURE IT IS IODIZED SALT. If you really are afraid to can using this method, and still want to, just add 1/8 tsp lemon juice (to make the water acidic) and this will ensure that NO BOTULISM occurs. Boil the beans for 5 minutes, covered (par-boil). Boiling them by waterbath and pressure cooker methods will cook them thoroughly.

    When placing the beans in the jars, use both the beans AND the water you boiled them in. At that point, you can then add the lemon juice if you are not confident in your skills yet.

    Too much of salt or lemon juice and your beans will end up tasting terrible. SO, TASTE, TASTE, TASTE! YOU SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO TASTE THE LEMON JUICE – AT ALL. If you do, dump the water out and add more hot water and lesson the amt of lemon juice you add. NO MORE THAN 1/8 (smidgen) OR LESS TEASPOON PER JAR!


    I found that using my pressure cooker, less spoilage occurs. In other words, my lids ALWAYS SEAL AFTER THE COOLDOWN – ALWAYS. BE SURE TO COVER YOUR WATERBATH POT WHILE BOILING. As they jars cool down after the full boiling time expires, you will hear the lids pop (this is excess air being shoved out of the jar by the heat).

    Because of high acid content, tomatoes are the easiest to can via the waterbath method, but if your tomatoes are low-acid, BE SURE TO ADD THAT 1/8 TSP OF LEMON JUICE 😉

    Also, you may want to take a look at the re-usable canning lids by Tattler ( ). I began using them already this year and they are wonderful!

  • 2. Christine Sachs  |  October 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I canned beans this week, and this was my first attempt. I found an old pressure cooker in the basement. It no longer has the pressure guage on it. I tried processing the beans anyway, but half of the liquid came out of them. I read some other articles before discovering yours, and I reprocessed them, using new lids. I guess I should just throw out the pressure cooker….too difficult trying to ‘guage’ the pressure, and to know when the pressure is back down to ‘0’. I did love the proceedure though. no pre-cooking, blanching, or peeling. I found this to be so quick and efficient. Next year I am getting a proper pressure cooker for sure! My beans turned out perfect the second time around. I put in more boiling water, new lids, and tightened lids a little tighter, and made sure not to try taking the ‘weight’ off the cooker too soon. God Bless, and thank-you for this site.

  • 3.  |  February 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

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  • 4. Carla  |  July 12, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    My beans are over cooked! what can I do to prevent this problem?

  • 5. Rachelle  |  August 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I am new to pressure canning. I made tomatoes that turned out great. I just processed green beans from my garden last night. They turned a little pink/red during processing, like others have mentioned. Only I know I used salt and not borax powder or any other mis ingredient as the above poster mentioned. They sealed great. The water is clear, not cloudy or pink. Just the ends of the beans are discolored. Any ideas about this? I know beans are an item to be careful with, but I also don’t want to just toss them out if it isn’t necessary. I’ve tried to google search an answer with no luck. Can you help me? Thanks so much!

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  • 11. Neil Smith  |  August 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    We recently pressure canned our garden green beans , and some wax beans using the Presto method exactly , 20 minutes for pints , 25 for quarts. The end result was watery ,seemingly overcooked beans with little flavor .Last year my friend’s water bath beans (3 hours) seemed to have much more flavor . Any advice ??

  • 12. Maggie  |  August 31, 2015 at 7:20 am

    Neil, it may have to do with the quality of the beans or the type of beans. I used specifically white half runners for canning. Other beans can break down more or less easily, so I stick with what I know so that I am sure it will be consistently worth my effort. I do hope that helps.

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