How to Can Soup and Stews | 16 Tips you Must Know

Canning homemade soups and stews is an easy process with the use of a pressure canner. Learn how to correctly can soups and stews with these 5 easy tips.

How to can soup and stew through the hot pack method.

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Pre-homesteading, pre-food preserving, pre-clean eating and healthy options, pre-sustainable living, I purchased canned soups and stews from the supermarket. It was easy, it was convenient, and I thought it to be a healthy option.

Though I made breakfast, lunch, and supper daily I was a consumer. I purchased cereals, breads from the market, and canned goods of all sorts. This was the life of a consumer.

Within months of beginning our homesteading journey I taught myself how to preserve foods through canning. Of course I started as all do, with high acidic foods but it wasn’t long before the pressure canner entered our lives.

Everything changed and the concept of clean eating and healthier options truly entered our lives. Canned soups and stews from the market were no longer a thing, and for that I am thankful.

Achieving Food Freedom

There is a purpose behind canning your own foods, especially items such as soups and stews.

  • First and foremost, home canned foods do not contain chemical preservatives which are required by the FDA for commercial foods.
  • Home canned goods contain fresh, wholesome ingredients which are approved by you and your family. Can you say food freedom?
  • Canning soups and stews create ready made meals and a much healthier form of fast food.
  • Learn how to can traditional soups and stews as well as, pot pie filling, curry, various sauces, and so much more.

Let’s say it like this, the ability to get a jump start on meals is as easy as reaching into the pantry. Making it unnecessary to purchase broth, stock, or boxed items from the market. 

This. This is why you’re here. You seek to feed your family healthier options than what you will elsewhere.

How to Can Soup and Stew

The joy of behind canning foods your family will consume is extremely easy, once you understand the base foundation behind canning your own recipes. Is this essential? It most certainly is.

I don’t consider myself to be a rebel canner (an individual who will can anything). There is a line which one must follow that allows you to incorporate science with traditional methods, you simply need to know this balance.

The following 13 tips will allow you to confidently, and properly, put-up your favorite soups, stews and so much more.

1. Canning Cooked Foods or Left Overs

The most often asked question, can I can leftovers? In short the answer is, yes, but why would you? 

Leftovers consist of items which have already been cooked – meat and vegetables. Running these items through the pressure canner will cook them a second time, causing the items to become overcooked. The meat will become dry and vegetables will become extremely soft. Hence making the food quite undesirable. 

In addition to this, many leftover meals contain items which really shouldn’t be canned. Take a look at points number 3, 4, 5 below.

2. Raw or Hot Pack

Soups and stews can be canned using the following two methods –

Raw pack – Uncooked meat, vegetables, herbs and spices into a hot jar with hot liquid.

Hot pack

  1. Prepare the meat by pre-cooking – lightly roasted, stewed, or browned – maintaining a rare center.
  2. Remove any bones and cut the meat into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Place the meat, vegetables, and packing liquid of choice into a stockpot, making sure the solids are covered.
  4. Add seasonings of choice and the appropriate amount of ClearJel if a thickness is desired. Refer to the instructions on the container for how much to add.
  5. Bring the items to a hard boil, continuing to boil for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and ladle the solids into jars. Next use a ladle and fill jars, leaving a 1-inch headspace.

Which method is better? In truth, that will depend on you. Of course hot packing soups and stews add more flavor than raw packing, but raw packing is just as delicious once the herbs and spices have been added. 

3. Thickeners

Everybody loves a ready to consume meal. The process of opening a jar of home canned venison stew should be thick and, well, stew-like. Convenience food at it’s healthiest and finest. There are ways to achieve a nice hearty, rich and thick stew, however, you must know which one is good to use for home canning.

Approved thickener – The one and only approved thickener for home canned goods is ClearJel. During the canning process this product remains in a liquid form, allowing the heat to properly penetrate through the jar.

Why is this essential? If the heat cannot reach to the center of the jar any botulism spores present will survive.

Not approved thickenersThe following thickeners are not approved and here’s why – depending on the amount of thickener used the content within the jar can become too thick to allow the heat to properly penetrate through the jar. Remember, to eliminate any botulism spores the heat from within the pressure canner must be able to reach the center of the jars.  

  • flour
  • cornstarch
  • chia seeds
  • arrow root
  • tapioca

These items can be added once you are ready to consume any home canned soups and stews.

4. Milk and Cream

Home canning goods containing milk or cream run the risk of the canned goods turning rancid, hence spoiling, which in turns leads to waste. People can milk, however, it does not make it right. As a sustainable homestead we strive to not create waste, which means even the possibility of milk or cream souring is wasteful.

Add milk and cream when a jar is ready to be opened and served.

5. Rice, Pasta, Grains

Much like thickeners, rice, pasta, and grains should not be added to home canned soups and stews. These items swell during the canning process and can become extremely thick within the jar, preventing the heat from reaching the center of the jar. 

It is best to can soups and stews without these items and add them once a jar is ready to be opened and served. 

6. Beans and Peas

Dried beans and peas can be used in soups, stews, and chili, however, they must be soaked prior to canning them. Preparing beans and peas for canning homemade soup is quite easy and you have two methods to choose from –

  • Soak the beans in water overnight, make sure they remain under water at all times.
  • Boil beans or peas for 2 minutes, then drain. Allow the peas to drain for roughly 1 hour to ensure all the water has drained off.

7. Vegetables and Meat

The joy of canning homemade soup and stew is to use foods which your family will consume. This includes the type of meat used. Choose from beef, chicken, pork, meat rabbits, and even wild game.

With that said, there are a few things you should be aware of –

  • Do not can items which do not hold their texture such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash. Instead stick to items which are firm in texture.
  • Remove all bones and as much of the fat as possible from the meat being canned.

8. Herbs and Spices

The true joy behind pressure canning soups and stews is this, to create flavors that your family will love. Salt is not necessary for home canning and it is not necessary to add, especially if you are watching your sodium intake. Neither is rosemary if you do not enjoy the flavor. Canning homemade soup and stews is ideal for those who have allergies and dietary restrictions.

Note – Herbs and spices amplify in flavor the longer they sit on the shelves. It is best to add a small amount and add extra seasoning as needed when the jar has been opened.

9. Soup and Stew Base Liquid

The liquid within a jar can consist of the following –

  • water
  • broth
  • stock
  • the juices of whole tomatoes

Note – Soups and stews which are raw packed gather flavor from the meat and seasonings which are added. However, hot packing these items and adding water creates an even more flavorful item.

10. Pureed Soups

Pressure canning soups and stews requires that the heat must reach the center of the jars (I feel the need to repeat this often), this is why pureed soups are not home canned. There is no guarantee that with pureed soups, as with thickeners, noodles, and grains, that the heat will reach to the center of the jars. 

For example, home canned pumpkin will allow you to create a delicious pureed pumpkin soup.

Note – Ball Blue Book does have a recipe for canning pureed carrot and ginger soup. This is the only pureed soup recipe which has been tested by Ball and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

11. Pressure Canning Soups and Stews

As mentioned, the world of science and traditional has a place together, as long as it makes sense. Pressure canning soups and stews is the only method to use for making these items shelf stable, let me tell you why –

Botulism – To kill food-borne bacteria such as Botulism spores the temperature within a canner must be 240 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes a pressure canner the necessary tool to use for canning low acidic foods. Unfortunately, boiling water within a hot water bath canner reaches only 212 degrees Fahrenheit and is not ideal for canning homemade soup and stew.

Hot Water Bath Canner – Canning low acidic foods for hours on end does not guarantee that botulism spores will be removed from foods. Also, adding additional boiling water requires the canner lid to be removed, releasing the heat within the canner. This tampers with the degree of heat within the HWB canner. Not to mention, who has time to watch food hard boil for over 8 hours?

The Correct PSI – Many articles online will tell you the processing time and PSI for pressure canning soups and stews, however, be wary of this. The PSI (pounds per square inch) is determined based on the altitude at which you reside

Processing Time for Soups

  • Pint-jars are processed for 60 minutes
  • Quart-jars are processed for 75 minutes
  • 100 minutes for seafood soups and stews regardless of jar size

Altitude for Soups

Home canning requires you to know the altitude at which you reside. This information can be easily found online by searching the county in which you reside. 

TYPE OF PACKJAR SIZEPROCESSING TIME0-2,000 ft2,001-4,000 ft4,001-6,000 ft6,001-8,000 ft
Hot or Raw Pint60 minutes11 PSI12 PSI13 PSI14 PSI
Quart75 minutes11 PSI12 PSI13 PSI14 PSI

Canning Stews

The correct processing time and PSI for stew, chili, and other like items will depend on the ingredients being canned. For example, the correct time for pressure canning beef stew is based on the correct information for canning beef as beef is the item in the recipe which takes the longest to can.

You can learn more on how to create, modify, and determine the correct processing times and altitude in my canning course, The Sustainable Canning Course. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is another great resource to fall back on.

The Sustainable Canning Course

Are you searching for canning classes near you? Look no further! The Sustainable Canning Course is a self-paced series of online classes designed to help you on the road to achieving food ownership.

The Sustainable Canning Course is an extension of my book, The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest. I wrote this book to help guide those who seek to own their food source the opportunity to do so. It is a comprehensive, easy to understand book covering all methods of home food preservation, canning, drying, fermenting, curing, freezing, and storing fresh foods.

  • Understand why pressure canning is necessary to preserve foods.
  • Confidently alter or create recipes to be canned.
  • Preserve many tomato products utilizing scientific information with traditional tools.
  • How modern canning tools, such as the steam canner and steam juicer, revolutionized preserving methods.
  • Understanding how to decipher information shared by the National Center of Home Food Preservation.
  • Discover how easy it is to can meat, fish, soups, and stews.

These topics and many more are available within The Sustainable Canning Course. Reserve your spot now, and begin gleaning the necessary information needed to preserve foods as a modern sustainable homesteader does.

12. Selecting the Best Jar Size

Believe it or not, the second most common question I get asked is, what is the best jar size to use and what type – wide or regular mouth jars?

Wide or Regular Mouth Jars – Unlike preserving fruit, jams, jellies, single ingredient meat or vegetables, canning soups and stews can be achieved in either a wide or regular mouth jars. Keep in mind, the ingredients within the jar pour out much easier from a wide mouth jar. Is it necessary to use wide mouth jars? Absolutely not, use what you have on hand.

Pint or Quart Size Jars – This decision can only be made by you. When the kids were little I did a lot of canning of soups and stews in pint size jars. This allowed them to grab what they wished from the pantry for lunch. Now that everyone has grown and it makes meal planning easier, quart-size jars is what we primarily can soups and stews in.

13. Properly Fill the Jars

There is a proper way to fill jars, and one which should be practiced for both pressure canning soups and stews. This technique is done whether you are raw or hot packing jars. This ensures the jars are not overpacked with solids, which could prevent the heat from properly penetrating through the jar.

  • Fill the jars half way with the solids first – meat, vegetables, seasonings.
  • Next, fill with the liquid of choice (refer to point 9), making sure to leave a 1-inch headspace from the bottom of the lid to the liquid in the jar.

14. Headspace within the Jar

It is necessary to leave a 1-inch headspace for all soup, stew, and chili recipes. This will ensure that the contents within the jar have room to expand during the canning process. Anything short or over 1-inch headspace can hinder the lids from properly sealing.

15. Loss of Liquid

There will come a time in which jars will experience a loss of liquid. The content within the jar is safe as long as the lids are vacuum sealed to the jar.

What would cause the loss of liquid, or siphoning –

  • incorrect headspace
  • fluctuating of temperature within the canner
  • air bubbles within the jar

16. Foods Above the Liquid

The third most commonly asked canning question – Is the food within the jar safe to consume if it is above the liquid?

The answer is, yes, as long as the lid has vacuum sealed itself to the jar. However, the content not submerged in the base liquid will begin to brown and dry out, making it somewhat unappealing. There are two solutions to this minor issue –

  • Consume jars with items not submerged first.
  • Discard any food which was not submerged in liquid.

Note – Proper pantry organization is essential for reasons such as this. The Pantry Organization Workbook will not only keep a pantry organized but your entire food storage.

Tips and Tricks for canning homemade soup and stew

Over the years I have shared the following tips for those who are new to canning homemade soup and stew.

  • Use a slotted spoon to fill jars
  • Reserve the amount of herbs and spices added, refer to point #8
  • Use different base liquids to add flavor, refer to point #9
  • Make sure to remove air bubbles, add extra liquid if necessary, and follow the 1-inch rule when canning homemade soup and stew, refer to points # 13 & 14
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