Having lived through many New England winters, I fancy myself an expert on comfort food. Being of Italian descent, I must admit I do lean toward pastas when the initial thought of comfort food crosses my mind. But, for me on a cold, snowy winter's eve, it has to be soup. There is nothing like a fire in the wood stove, the aroma of fresh-baked crusty bread and a pot of simmering soup on the stove.
Cooking a large pot of soup can last my husband and I a good five days, and there is no point in making soup if you don't cook a pot full. After a couple days of the same soup, though, the taste buds can get a little bored, so I would freeze the left over soup. This works fine for some soups, but not all of them freeze well. Also, after losing power during storms and losing my freezer full of food, I learned this was not always the desired saving method for my soups.
Having been a canner for over 30 years, I decided to learn how to can my soups. Chicken soup was my first attempt at canning. To my surprise, it was wonderful, even better than right out of the pot. The process of pressure canning made the chicken even more tender and moist. Keep in mind, though, it is not recommended to can pasta or rice in soups, so I add these when I open the jars to serve it.
Chicken Soup in Canning Jars
While canning soup is easier than one might think, the process intimidated me at first. But after my first couple of batches, I was an expert and ventured into new and exciting territories of soup making.
At this juncture, I must advise you in the process of canning soups. Assuming you know some basics of canning, you know that low acid foods must be pressure canned and high acid foods can be processed through a water bath canner. BUT, I always process my canned soups through a pressure canner for safety’s sake. In this sharing of my experience canning soups, I must guide you in following to the letter the instructions and guidelines set by the USDA in the National Center for Home Food Preservation or by Ball Canning.
It is very important to correctly process canned food to assure safe-guarding against health risks caused by improper processing.
Now, on to the fun part ...
Favorite soups to have on hand in the pantry are my own – not store bought! I always make chicken soup. A simple recipe of chicken meat that I pre-cook by boiling with herbs. I then add carrots, celery and onion to the broth after I have removed the chicken from the bones.
A favorite of my husband’s is Minestrone Soup. Minestrone typically has small pasta in it, but I never get the chance to cook it and add it at serving time since Don just loves it the way it comes out of the jar.
Minestrone Soup in Canning Jars
Another one of my favorite soups is Potato Leek Soup
My favorite potato to use for canning is Yukon Gold potatoes because they keep their firmness well during processing. This is a very simple soup to make with just potatoes, leeks and vegetable broth. Another version is Cock-A-Leekie soup, made with chicken meat, leeks and chicken broth.
Potato Leek Soup
Another great time saver is to make your own recipe for beef stew and can it in quart jars but DO NOT thicken it before canning. Leave it as broth, and when it is time to use, thicken it into stew or for a beef pot pie.
Once you can your first batch of your favorite soup, you will always have homemade soups ready to serve in your pantry. For those long, cold winters, there is nothing like soup – the ultimate comfort food.
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