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How To Can Your Own Homemade Soups Using a Pressure Canner

There’s nothing quite like a bowl of homemade soup. While I’m not a fan of having soup for dinner as a main course, I am not opposed to eating a cup or bowl as an appetizer or as a side dish to a hearty sandwich and a handful of potato chips. And the fact that you made it yourself somehow gives it that much more flavor.

Pressure canning is a bit more difficult than using a water bath canner. There is a lot more time involved in the process as well because of the need to bring the canner to pressure and wait for the pressure to go down before opening and processing your next batch. So, without further ado, let’s go through the steps and then we will back track and cover some pressure canner basics.

How to Use a Pressure Canner to Can Soup

  1. Sanitize jars and lids.
  2. Prepare your soup to your recipe.
  3. Fill Jars and cover with sterilized lids. Attach lid bands to keep lids from coming off during processing.
  4. Place canner on largest burner on your stove and begin to heat.
  5. Put 2 to 3 inches of water in your pressure canner. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the exact amount of water to reach the desired pressure.
  6. Insert canning rack, and and jars of soup.
  7. Place lid on pressure canner and open the steam vent if so equipped
  8. Bring water to boil. When conical plume of steam is billowing from vent you will know water is boiling. Allow to boil with vent open for ten minutes to push all air from the kettle.
  9. Close the vent with the petcock or by adding the weight. This will rapidly build pressure in the canner.
  10. Use gauge to determine when canner is at the propper pressure. This will often be around 11 pounds. The user manual gives more detailed instruction on how to read this for your specific model of canner. Adjust heat on your stove to maintain the proper pressure in the canner.
  11. Allow your soup to process in the jars for 5 to 15 minutes depending on the instructions.
  12. Remove from heat and allow the canner to cool down until pressure has disipated.
  13. Once cool, carefully remove the lid of the canner keeping the bottom facing away from you to avoid getting burned from the remaining steam.
  14. Remove jars with a jar lifter to a cooling rack or dishtowel on the counter. Leave at least 1 inch between jars as they cool and allow them to sit undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. During this time, do not remove the lid bands or press the center of the lid.
  15. After the jars have cooled, check for seal. Remove lid bands, label and store in cool place out of direct sunlight. Refrigerate any jars that did not seal and use as normal

What is a pressure canner?

A pressure canner is a special pot used to process and preserve foods in the home. Prior to the 1970’s these pots were thick walled metal containers with clamp on lids. The lids were equiped with a gauge and a release stem which featured a counterweight or a petcock. A petcock is a small valve used to control the flow of liquid or gasses.

Today’s pressure canners are much lighter kettles. Most have twist-on lids with a gasket to form the sel, although you can still find the clamp down variety if you really want one. A majority have automatic vent locks, a steam vent and a safety fuse.

When do I need to use pressure canner?

Pressure canning should be used for foods low in sugar and acid. The bacteria that causes botulism cannot live in these highly acidic environments, therefore the lower temperature of water bath canning suits them perfectly. When you are preserving foods such as meats, soups, low acid vegetables such as beans, peas and carrots, or any high acid food mixed with a low acid food (think tomato based vegetable soup) you should be using a pressure canner.

Can I Can Dairy based soups?

Canning soups that use milk or butter can be dangerous. The fats in the dairy products capture and insulate onto the botulism spores that make you sick. You are better off just canning a base for this type of soup and then adding the milk and butter as you prepare it. If you want to make it ahead of time so that all you have to do is dump it in a pan and go I would recommend freezing it as opposed to taking a huge risk and canning. I am pretty sure the big companies get away with it because they use preservatives and chemicals and all the nasty stuff that you are trying to get away from by canning your own foods.

How does a pressure canner work?

Because we are dealing with a low acid food, soup, we need to get the product hotter to kill all of the bacteria. Like I said epressure cannerarlier, that bacteria cannot live in an acidic environment, so the processing does not have to be as hot. In water bath canning, the water only gets to 212. A pressure canner raises the boiling temperature of water by putting it under pressure. Water under 15 lbs of pressure will boil at 250

Unlike the water bath process, the jars do not need to be completely submerged in a pressure canner. Follow the directions that came with the canner for the amount of water to add for the desired pressure. Once your lidded jars are added to the kettle itself and the lid is placed on the water inside the canner is brought to a boil. The vent is left open and the water is left to boil for ten minutes or so so that all of the air is out of the canner. After that time period, the vent is closed and the pressure is allowed to build. Because there is no air in the canner surrounding the jars, just water and water vapor, the entire contents are able to reach the desired temperature with little to no fluctuation.

After the jars have been processed for the appropriate amount of time at the appropriate pressure, the canner is removed from the heat and allowed to cool down natuarlly. Once all of the pressure has disipated, the canner is opened and the jars are removed and left to sit for 12 to 24 hours to further cool and create a strong seal.

What size pressure canner should I buy

The USDA says the minimum size for a pressure canner is large enough to hold four quart size jars. What is the maximum size? Well, the USDA doesn’t put out a limit on the maximum size because a 1 quart jar processed in a 41 quart pressure canner is going to be just as safe to eat and there will be no quality difference in the final product as if you processed it in a 10 quart canner. The difference comes down to the amount of energy needed/wasted to do that 1 quart jar in a larger canner. So on the higher side, It will be a matter of personal need. We looked at 5 Pressure Canners. See how they stacked up.

Pressure canner vs. Pressure cooker

A pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker. By the USDA guidelines, a jar processed in a smaller pressure cooker can not be deemed for for consumption. The difference had to do with the speed at which the cooker comes up to the 240 degrees and goes back down to normal again. This is a faster process in the smaller pots and may not kill all of the bacteria. They also have no gauge to determing the pressure inside the pot. You can cook food in a pressure canner. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can I water bath process in my pressure canner?

As long as the canner pot is large enough to cover the jars completely by about an inch and you do not seal the lid and build pressure, yes. In this case you would be able to use both your pressure cooker and pressure canner to water bath can your foods.

I have a glass top stove. Can I still use a pressure canner?

Yes. In fact, some would argue that an electric range is better for using a pressure canner. If using a gas flame, check with the manufacturer to make sure the burner is not putting out more than 1700 btu. Do not use a pressure canner on an outdoor propane burner.

What else can I can using my pressure canner?

Is pressure canning safe?

Pressure canning is absolutely safe as long as you follow a few rules. Always use a pressure with the UL seal. Underwriters Laboratories has over 120 years of experience in safety certification and validation of products for the home. As far as physical safety goes:

Check your equipment

  • The lid should fit properly. Check for warping of the lid, caused by rapid cooling of the canner, .
  • Check for pitting in the kettle. Pitting can mean there is a weak spot that could rupture under pressure.
  • Check the gasket. The gasket should be soft and pliable. There should be no nicks or cuts in the gasket itself.
  • Make sure all vents are clear, clean and open.

Food Safety

  • Food SafetyProcess your foods according to the recipe. Follow the timing recommendations to the letter.
  • Maintain the proper pressure. If the pressure falls below the recommended pressure, bring the pressure back up and begin timing again.
  • Never force cool your pressure cooker. Force cooling could result in liquid loss from the jars, poor sealing and improper processing of your food which would allow bacteria into your final product.

Preserving soup with a pressure canner is a lot of work. There is a lot of time involved, not just in the preparation of the recipe and the soup itself, but also in filling jars, processing and allowing to seal properly. But, if done correctly it is very rewarding. The knowledge that on a day when the snow is flying outside and school is canceled, you can go to the pantry and pull out a wholesome meal for the family. I don’t know of anything that quite compares.

If you have any questions, comments or tips for canning soups, or if you want to share your favorite recipe for a soup that you can, please add it to the comments section below.

Eric C

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