Tips For Canning Homemade Soups, Stews, and Chili

May 20, 2014

Food Preservation

Canning

When I first started canning, I stuck 100% to “approved” canning recipes, always afraid that I would poison my family if I added even an ounce of creativity to the pot. Admittedly, this was probably a good move as a newbie.

Now that I have a little more experience under my belt, and I understand the basic concepts of what is safe and what isn’t, I’ve found a new freedom in experimenting with different recipes and even straying from the book a little.

Learning to can your favorite soups, stews, and chili in big batches is one of the most rewarding skills to master. Not only are you preserving your leftovers for future meals, but you are saving your family money and feeding them more nutritiously in the process. On nights when it’s 5pm and you have no idea what to make for dinner, there’s nothing as satisfying as reaching into the pantry and pulling out a quart or two of your favorite homemade stew. Sure beats take-out!

When canning your favorite meals for which there isn’t an “approved” recipe, there are a few precautions you need to keep in mind for best quality and outcome.

canning soups, stews, and chili

6 Tips For Canning Homemade Soups, Stews, and Chili

A Pressure Canner is a MUST!  When canning anything other than fruits, pickles, or plain tomatoes, you absolutely need to use a pressure canner (not the same thing as a pressure cooker, by the way). Our great-grandmothers might have water-bath canned everything, but they were risking botulism with every jar. Some of you might be scoffing at this advice, having water bath canned low acid foods for years without any trouble. I’m telling you right now- you’ve been lucky. You’re taking a risk of poisoning yourself and anyone else you feed your home canned goods to. It isn’t worth death- which is a real risk with botulism. Save your pennies, invest in a good quality pressure canner (such as the All American brand), and preserve your food safely.

At Least Follow Approved Recipes Loosely. With a few adjustments, it can be perfectly safe to can your favorite recipes at home. But you really do need to at least find an approved recipe that’s pretty close to what you’re making, to know how long it needs to process and at how many pounds of pressure.

Look at the ingredients in your recipe, and find the one that needs to process for the highest amount of pressure and for the longest time- this will determine how you process your jars. For instance, let’s say you’re canning beef stew with vegetables. If you just had veggies in your stew, you would process quart jars for 1 hour and 25 minutes at 10 lbs pressure, but since you’ve added meat you’ll need to increase your time to 1 hour and 30 minutes at the same pounds of pressure. (You can find this info in the Ball Blue Book). Your recipe might not be exactly like that in the Ball Blue Book, but the ingredients will probably be very similar, so go by that.

Skip The Pasta and Rice. Or at least put in very little when making stuff like chicken noodle soup. Also, you don’t want to cook noodles or rice before processing them in the canner, or they’ll turn to mush. Instead, make your soup base, fill your jars, then add a tiny bit of raw noodles or rice, then proceed with canning. Better yet, just leave them out and add them to the soup as you re-heat it. The problem with adding too many noodles is that the soup can get very thick in the center of the jar, which won’t get heated adequately during the canning process. You risk food poisoning, even botulism, if you haven’t heated the contents of the jar well enough. If you absolutely have to add the pasta, go easy on it.

Don’t Can Fully Cooked Beans. It’s the same deal as with the noodles and rice. For one, they’ll get mushy when canned. But most importantly, you might end up with a product that is too thick to get heated adequately in the center of the jar. When preparing chili or another meal-in-a-jar which requires beans, only cook the beans for 30 minutes before filling your jars. This will ensure the best texture and thickness.

Go Easy On The Seasonings. Herbs and spices will strengthen over time, so go easy on them when canning. Especially spicy stuff. It is recommended that you avoid Sage altogether, as it turns bitter during canning. You might want to just add the seasonings to the dish as you’re re-heating it before serving.

Expect The Flavor To Change. It’s important to know right off the bat that your famous spaghetti sauce will taste different after it has been canned. Not to say that it won’t still be delicious, but just expect at least a subtle change in flavor.

Follow these guidelines along with general canning safety rules, and you’ll have a pantry stocked with delicious, personalized meals in no time.

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list, or personal experiences to share? What’s your favorite meal-in-a-jar to can?

About Kendra Lynne

Kendra shares all of her homesteading adventures on her website, New Life on a Homestead. Also be sure to check out her popular Canning DVD: At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond!

View all posts by Kendra Lynne

30 Responses to “Tips For Canning Homemade Soups, Stews, and Chili”

  1. NancyB Says:

    May have been a typo, but “since you’ve added meat, you’ll need to increase your time to 30 minutes at the same pounds of pressure.” it was confusing to read. Did you mean “increase your time by 30 minutes”? by instead of to? 90 minutes?

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      I’m sorry! That WAS confusing, lol. I’ll fix it so that the directions are more clear. What I meant was to increase your time to 1 hr and 30 minutes, instead of 1 hr and 25 min. Thank you for helping me to clarify that!

      Reply

  2. Roberta Says:

    Thank you this article was a tremendous help….

    Reply

  3. Leilani Says:

    I cooked my green beans in a pressure cooker before I canned them and cooked them in a water bath. The difference is they were not in jars when I pressure cooked them, they were loose as if cooking for dinner. Are they safe to eat? I cooked them under pressure for 2hrs before canning them.

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Leilani,

      I hate to tell you this after all your hard work, but pressure cooking your beans and then water bath canning them doesn’t make them safe to eat. They must be pressure canned. You are taking a risk of getting extremely sick if you eat those beans. Sorry!!

      Reply

  4. Christine Says:

    I’m a new canner but have been gleening all the info I can. My favourite soup to make is broccoli cheese. There’s a lot of milk and cheese added but I was thinking I would just make it up to just before adding the milk and cheese and then can it concentrated. There’s onions and broccoli along with some spices and corn starch for thickening. I can’t find anything that tells me how long I should process in a pressure canner.
    Also, I have only a 10lb weight. When a recipe calls for 15lbs can I use the 10lb for a longer time? Or should I look for the right weight?
    Thanks so much for passing on all your wonderful wisdom! :)

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Hi Christine,

      Unfortunately I can’t advise on recipes that aren’t from an approved source, such as the Ball Blue Book. I’ve heard that broccoli isn’t good canned anyways. Sorry I’m not much help!!

      Reply

    • Angela Says:

      I pressure can broccoli soup with great success. Mine is pureed, so the broccoli is fine. I add the cream and cheese when I heat and serve it. I use Emerile Lagasse’s recipe actually. It’s awesome. I use the pounds of pressure and time that is needed for vegetables for canning.
      Good luck!

      Reply

  5. Ken Ferris Says:

    Kendra,

    I have been water bath canning, and now I’m ready to try pressure canning. I have a killer chili recipe with beans and deer meat, etc. My plan is to cook my chili as normal, then pressure can it to preserve it for later, when I can open, heat, and serve.

    Can I do this safely, and will my beans and meat stand up to the pressure canning in the jars?

    By the way, we were homeschoolers too. Our son is now on a full-ride academic scholarship at George Mason University in Virginia. You’ll see the fruits of your labor with your children, just wait!

    Reply

  6. Glenda Myers Says:

    I am brand new at this.. I wanted to learn how to preserve those dishes I always seem to cook too much of and end up wasting – like chili, veg beef soup, potato soup.. However, after reading your tips, I get the feeling these are not ideal dishes because of the beans, pasta, milk and cheese.. Also, I can’t imagine how, after already being fully cooked – these recipes would still be palatable after another hour or more of cooking.. I am about to abandon the idea.. Any advice?? Did I come to the wrong conclusion?

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Glenda,
      You are correct. Unfortunately, not all soups and stews are appropriate for canning. You might try freezing your leftovers and seeing how they turn out once thawed. :)

      Reply

    • Mommers Says:

      I save cottage cheese cartons for freezing soup that is not desirable for canning, and chili. The cartons are the perfect size for two people. I use painter’s tape to write the date and contents (with a sharpie).

      Reply

  7. Jean Says:

    I’ve had really good luck canning vegetable soup with beef, using the time required for the beef. This year I’m canning potatoes, onions and ham to make potato soup (I’ll add milk when I serve it). My kids canned chili for 4-H–used the Ball Blue Book which says no beans so what we ended up doing was adding a store bought can of chili beans to it when we ate it. Ball has a recipe for Clam Chowder base I’d like to try too!! Soup is so handy to have on the shelf for a quick meal.

    Reply

  8. adam Says:

    I made a batch of tomato based chili and added canned kidney beans then cook on the stove. Till the thickness was where I wanted it. There is no meat and every thing was cooked. I then canned this in a hot water bath for 20 minutes is this safe. Or is there a bocholism risk still.

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Adam,
      When you added the beans to your tomato base, you immediately dropped the acidity level in the chili. You really did need to pressure can that chili in order to kill the botulism spores. I hate to say it, but you’re better off throwing it out and staying safe.

      Reply

  9. Corinia Says:

    To get around the mushy veggies in my beef & chicken soups when pressure canned, I make everything as normal–except I don’t add the veggies. I can what amounts to bassicallly meat and broth. When storing them I place a 1/2 pint jar filled with dehydrated veggies right next to them. When I grab a jar of stock, I grab a jar of veggies and rehydrate them in the soup as it heats up. It’s not fancy and it took a bit of trial and error (and dinners at 7:30 at night) to figure out the hydration time, but so far it’s worked really well. It also allows for things like turning beef soup into beef stew pretty easily.

    Thanks for a good read and some really great information!!

    Reply

  10. Tammy Price Says:

    Help, I just canned my chili with meat and beans in a pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 pounds. I just read the high altitude info and it should have been at 15 pounds as we live at an altitude of 5300. Is there anything I can do to save this batch?

    Reply

  11. Christina Says:

    Hi! My family loves the chili I make, and I really want to can it for quick and easy meals later. My only concern is I use canned tomatoes in the recipe. Is it safe to can this?

    Reply

  12. Sandy Roberts Says:

    Hi, is it safe to add a couple of cubes of bullion or beef base when canning soups? I noticed that the beef base which was being used in some recipes I have seen online contained milk in the ingredients list after I bought it. I don’t won’t to use anything that could set me up for botulism. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Adding bullion to meals is a great way to flavor them during the canning process. If there’s a tiny bit of milk I wouldn’t be too concerned about it as long as you are pressure canning.

      Reply

  13. Jan Lastocy Says:

    If I’m cooking my meat before canning (stuffed cabbages), how long would I have to pressure can it? I don’t want my cabbage to turn to mush! Also, if I cook chili completely, do I still have to pressure can it for 90 minutes if it is completly cooked?

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      I’ve never canned stuffed cabbages, but when you can cabbage pack it in raw to prevent it from turning to mush. You always want to can for the recommended time, no matter how long you pre-cook the foods you’ll be canning.

      Reply

  14. Regina Says:

    When I can stews, I raw pack the meat, adding vegetables and hot stock. I process at 90 minutes at ten pounds of pressure. The stew cooks in the quart jar.When serving,I add flour and water for thickness and check the seasonings.

    Reply

  15. Bill R. Says:

    Thanks for posting this great article. It was helpful and straight forward. The USDA also has an excellent section on canning along with a ton of recipes. I tried their pickled beets recipe and it was delicious. I’m sort of a novice when it comes to canning, but I think it is importn

    Reply

  16. Jessica Says:

    I’ve pressure-canned fully cooked beans with no problems. I just gave it a little extra head space. I did about 2 dozen and it was really nice to have those on hand instead of store-bought.

    Reply

  17. Melinda Boling Says:

    I have been researching canning beef vegetable soup for a couple of weeks. AND the light finally came on after reading your tips. Thank you from TN!

    Reply

  18. Janet Sommerfield Says:

    I hot packed bean soup with ham and then pressure can for 15 mins. After a weeky lids all unsealed so I threw it out. I did the same with my
    Beef stew and chicken noodle soup. I used my new 8 quart Digital Pressure Power Cooker. It says only 15 mins for most

    Reply

    • Jerry Chrisope Says:

      USDA and NCHFP both say that, in spite of some manufactures promotions, NO electric pressure cookers are safe to can in. I suspect the heat and pressure are not consistent with safe canning temps.

      Reply

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