One of the easiest soups to home can is a basic vegetable soup. It is also a great opportunity to cover one of the important truths of home canning. Even though a soup or sauce may contain tomatoes, the amount of citric acid in the tomatoes is not enough to allow you to safely process the soups through a waterbath method. Put simply, if you ever add any other ingredient to the tomatoes, such as vegetables or meat, then it MUST be processed by pressure canning.
Right now, gardens are in full swing. In some areas, the gardens might be nearing the end of the harvest season. It is a great time to use up the odds and ends of your harvest to make a hearty soup to stock in your pantry. For me, there is no real recipe for the vegetable soup. It is made using whatever vegetables that I happen to have on hand. Common vegetables that I put in are carrots, green beans, peas, onion, and zucchini or yellow squash. I have also added things like leeks, bell peppers, corn, tomatoes, and spinach. Typically, the tomatoes that I use are the pear shaped ones since they are meatier and less juicy. These tomatoes just seem to hold up and stay in nice sized chunks much better than the large slicing tomatoes. This is a personal preference however. You can use any type of tomato that you have on hand.
As with most of my canning recipes, I really don’t measure very much. This vegetable soup is no exception. I start by rinsing off the fresh vegetables and then cutting them into bite size pieces if necessary. I mix all the vegetables being used in a large bowl or stock pot until they are well blended. Cover with water if needed to prevent anything from browning before use.
If I am adding meat to the soup, I will brown some bite size chunks of stew meat. I have a natural aversion to putting raw meat into a canning jar. I know that some have no problem with this, but I feel that the extra time taken to brown the meat ahead of time is worth the safety of the finished product. I am able to process the jars without worrying that the meat might not be fully cooked by the time the processing is completed. As I brown the meat, I add any seasonings such as chopped onions and bell peppers. I like these to be at least halfway cooked before processing as it really enhances the flavors. I never add salt to the meat while it is cooking. Instead, I add salt to the jars before sealing. A basic amount that I always follow is 1/2 tsp of canning salt in each pint or 1 tsp of canning salt in each quart jar. This is an amount we always have used.
When I am ready to fill the jars, I place about a 1/2 cup of the meat into each quart jar. Next, I add enough vegetables to fill the jar to a 1/2 inch below the rim. Lastly, I add enough tomato juice or broth to fill the jar to 1/2″ below the rim. Wipe off the jar rim, and add the lid and ring. I process the jars in a pressure canner for the time required for the meat. In processing anything, whether by pressure canning or waterbath method, always check to see what the processing time is for the various ingredients. In this case the vegetables vs the meat. ALWAYS use the processing time for the ingredient that takes the longest. In this recipe, the meat processing time is longer than what you would use for the vegetables alone. For those wanting a recipe, here is one of my favorites.
12 large tomatoes, cored and diced
6 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
12 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups of whole kernel corn
4 cups of green peas
2 cups of green beans, cut into 1.5″ pieces
4 medium zucchini, sliced
2 cups of green lima beans
6 stalks of celery sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 quarts of tomato juice
Salt & Pepper, to taste
In a large stock pot, mix all ingredients together. Cook over a medium heat until heated through. Season to taste. Ladle the soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace below the jar rim. Add additional tomato juice or water if needed.
***According to the Ball Blue Book of canning (2009 edition), this type of meatless soup should be processed by pressure canner. 55 minutes for pint jars and 1 hour, 25 minutes for quart jars. Please check your canning book or resources for the proper pressure level to use for your elevation. This recipe will make about 9 quarts or 18 pints of soup.
When I make a soup like this, I will often fill the canner (7 quarts) and continue cooking on the stove the remainder for our evening meal. This is especially a favorite in the winter when I can make the soup for canning in the morning. While the canner is processing on the propane stove, I can let the remainder of the soup simmer on the wood stove all day.
One nice thing about this recipe is that you can customize it using vegetables that your family enjoys. Many times, I will make a vegetable soup without meat so that on days when we want a meatless meal, we have this available. I home can meat separately so that I can add it to any recipe later on. If you choose to add meat to this recipe, the processing times will have to be lengthened to the proper amount for meats. Again, according to the Ball Blue Book, 2009 edition, the processing times for diced chicken and beef that has been precooked are 1 hr 5 minutes for pints or 1 hr 30 minutes for quarts.