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Pressure Canning ~ Delight or Disaster?

November 22, 2010

Yeah, we’ve started making our homemade soup…finally.  This has been a plan of ours since we started canning again full-time this summer in July…and, we are just getting around to it now.  I guess better late than never.  Our original plan was to make enough soup to be able to enjoy a bowl each every day for a year.  Now, that is a lot of soup.  My mom kindly purchased all the jars for what we will call “operation soup” and gave them to us as a birthday gifts…The making and canning of the soup is up to us!

All soups must be pressure canned in order for them to be safely preserved.  And, well I am very confident using the hot water bath method for our pickles, jams, chutneys, fruit, etc…I am a little uneasy around the pressure canner.  No, I’m not afraid that the lid will blow off or that there will be an explosion…I just simply have not used it enough to feel the same level of confidence that Matt does.  You have to remember until last year I didn’t even know how to turn on the stove let alone follow a recipe from start to finish.  I am  still a work in progress.  So, I’ve been waiting until Matt has a few spare moments, more like hours, to help me put up some soup.  Okay we’re ready…he’s going to take a day off work.  We have a great brand new pressure canner, all of the jars we need to make about 300-400 litres of soup and lots of access to root vegetables and other delicious soup making ingredients.  Sounds delightful…doesn’t it!?!  And, better still, we all know there is nothing like the taste of a hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold winters day…right!?!  This plan of our almost sounds too good to be true.

Let’s make soup!  Soup is one of those things that you can really experiment with and there are tons of tried, tested and true recipes out there.  Matt has been making homemade soup for years and we’ve always enjoyed it.  But, having several kinds of homemade soup ready-made and jarred is an extra bonus and something we really thought would work well with our lifestyle.  If you don’t want to wing it, there are lots of great soup making recipe books out there and we’ve enjoyed all of the soups we’ve made from Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom and New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein.

Our first soup of the season recipe comes from Sunday Soup and is Betty’s Russian Vegetable Soup.  This recipe was selected because it called for cabbage, one of the veggies that is readily available in Ontario right now and we just happened to have 3 huge heads of savoy cabbage from our friend Suzann.  Perfect.


  • one 2-pound cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into 1-inch thick wedges
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2″ thick slices
  • 3 medium turnips (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 8 cups beef stock, divided (we used chicken stock because that’s what we made)
  • One 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large russet potato (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  1. In a large stainless steel stockpot add cabbage, carrots, celery, turnips, and 6 cups of the stock.  Bring to a simmer, then mix in the tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Let it cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are very tender, for about 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan.  Once it’s hot, add the onions and sauté until tender approximately 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute or two.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. After the vegetables have gurgled away in the stockpot for 11/2 hours, add the onion mixture and the cubed potatoes.  Pour in the remaining 2 cups stock.  The vegetables should be submerged.  Note:  if there isn’t enough liquid to cover the vegetables, add 1 to 2 cups water to cover them.  Cook until the potatoes are just tender but not breaking up, about 30 minutes.  Season soup to taste with additional salt and pepper. 
  4. Ladle the hot soup into the sterilized jars, leaving 1″ headspace at the top. Note: sterilizing the jars is not necessary but we’ve gotten into the habit of doing it and this way your jars are also extra clean and nice and hot too.)   Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.  Place the jars in the pressure canner and follow the pressure canning directions for your area.   We pressure canned the soup for 60 minutes.
  5. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream or freshly grated sharp cheese, and a spot of chopped dill.

Now, the making of the soup was delightful.  Matt and I spent a wonderful afternoon in the kitchen watching the fruits of our labour simmering on the stove…sneaking a sample spoon throughout the process and determining that once again Mrs. Rosbottom knows how to make a great bowl of soup.   But, you can’t forget that after spending 2 1/2 to 3 hours making the soup your ventures in the kitchen are not over.  It still has to be put in the pressure canner for another 6o minutes…and, we had more than one load of jars to process because we tripled the recipe (we had 1 double batch and 1 single batch simmering away).  Making soup to jar is a labour of love and we do it because it is healthier and tastier than anything you’ll buy at the store.  But, after spending most of the day in front of a hot stove all you want to hear once the jars are removed is that pop, pop, pop sound as they happily seal themselves and await the day when they will be opened and served.  We waited and waited a little longer because pressure canned jars are hotter, and we waited some more for that popping sound.  But, it didn’t come for all of the jars.  And, the last thing you want after spending 4 plus hours working on 7 litres of soup is to have jars that DO NOT seal.  Sadness and frustration instantly sets in and you wonder why are you doing this!?! 

And, that my friends is the disaster.  Matt and I spend so much of our time canning, making bread, and preparing deliciously healthy homemade meals that we cannot afford to spend extra time reprocessing our jars.   Let alone re-pressure canning our jars (more time).  And, that is what happened with our first batch of soup.  Two-thirds of our jars did not seal ~ four jars from our first batch were reprocessed and two jars from our second and last batch did not seal…we’re just going to eat them.  AGGGHHH, frustrating!!!  

The worst part is we don’t really know why.  We know that we’ve never had as much success pressure canning as we have had using the boiling water bath and the added and extra time involved in pressure canning leaves us scratching our heads.  We also know that we have a siphoning problem and that the jars that did not seal had too many particles that had siphoned preventing any kind of seal.  But, what do we do to fix this problem? and turn our soup making disaster into pure delight!?!

Solutions?…Anyone?  We think that we are going to leave them in the pressure canner to cool for a bit longer and see if that helps.  Afterall, this is why you wait the 5 minutes before removing your jars after boiling in the regular water bath to give them time to cool and prevent siphoning.  Maybe this is the answer…but we still are not sure.

Our “operation soup” will continue and I will keep you updated…358 litres to go.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Put up Total:

  • 9 x 1 litre regular mouth mason jars  (Note: 2 are unsealed and will be refrigerated)
23 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2010 9:09 pm

    Sorry this didn’t work out for you. I don’t have an answer either, other than some suggestions. My Bernardin cookbook recommends taking a cloth dipped in vinegar and wiping the rim before you put the snap lid to clean off any residue, particularly oils. Still, I’ve done this and still had seal failure.

    Sometimes I get all jars to seal and sometimes it’s 1/4 chance. I’m not sure why it’s not more consistent. I follow the directions on my pressure canner to the “T” (with pressure canning, how can you not?!) and am still not pleased.

    Still, let’s both keep it up and figure out what’s happening. My other major pet-peeve is seepage. Apparently as long as it seals and you haven’t lost more than half the amount of liquid, you’re fine, but very rarely do I manage to keep all the liquid in my pressure canned vegetables (although my turkey vegetable soup maintained all its broth AND sealed….go figure!)

    Pressure canning is definitely more finicky that BWB, but there’s nothing better than seeing rows and rows of canned vegetables and soup in your cold storage. Feels like you could survive the worst storm!

    • November 23, 2010 10:49 am

      I appreciate your suggestions and encouraging words. When your jars don’t seal you feel so frustrated and want to give up. But, the whole idea of being able to make batches and batches of soup and have them lined up on our shelves keeps me moving forward…not too mention all the canned veggies.
      I will continue to post my experiences with the pressure canner and see if I can determine how to have a better success rate. We are going to make some more soup tonight!!

  2. November 22, 2010 9:27 pm

    Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that some of your cans did not seal. How frustrating indeed!! My in-laws can with a pressure cooker and I helped them can grapes. I must say, canning with a pressure canner is more intimidating. One thing my mother-in-law told me is that don’t move the jars once you take them out of the pressure cooker or they might not seal. However you probably know that already.

    • November 23, 2010 10:45 am

      We are definitely not as familiar with the pressure canner but are determined to figure it out. How long does you mother-in-law leave the jars in the pressure canner? Until they seal? This may be some of our problem. In the manual it says to NOT open the lid until the pressure gage goes back to zero which is what we do. But, we are thinking now that the jars are probably still too hot and maybe we should leave them in longer with the lid on. Does she take off the lid when it reaches zero or leave it closed for a little bit longer? Appreciate the help!

      • November 23, 2010 10:30 pm

        When we were canning the grapes, she only had it in the pressure cooker for 25 minutes I think. I will have to ask her. She cans soup also and broth, so let me ask her about the timing. I do know that she releases the steam through this steam release nob on the lid once it’s done, and takes the lid off.

  3. November 22, 2010 9:49 pm

    I have been debateing on wheither or not to invest in a pressure cooker, I have only ever made soup fresh or just canned things that only required a water bath. Any recommondations for a good and not to expensive pressure cooker? I think I am finally feeling confident enough to head towards pressure cooking!!

    • November 23, 2010 10:40 am

      The pressure canner we purchased (after quite a bit of research) was the All American Pressure Canner 921 – 21 quart. It is well built, the perfect size for home canning, and comes with lots of great reviews. It hold 19 x 500mL or pint jars, and 7 x 1L or quart jars.
      We are still testing the pressure canning waters but skies are the limits once we get it all figured out!

      • Kathryn Colton permalink
        December 3, 2012 7:47 pm

        We have the same pressure cooker. Do you remember to put olive oil around the edge of the pot where the lid makes contact? The directions said to do this every 4th time. I have used my canner three times now and everytime the jars have sealed. I do worry everytime I attempt to can, so far no problems.

      • December 6, 2012 11:27 am

        Yes, we have lubricated the rim…I believe we used vaseline. We’ve had difficulty with the lid being stuck on. No problems once we got the hang of it and we love the results.
        We are thrilled to hear you are having such wonderful success…keep up the excellent work!

  4. Cheryl A. Naegel permalink
    January 2, 2011 9:17 am

    Hi there! I just stumbled onto your site and hope you could help me! We recently purchased a pressure canner. I was very intimidated by it, but nervously went ahead and canned batches of venison vegetable soup. (my husband was kind of rushing me). I only processed it for 25 minutes and now I find out that it should have been longer. (I followed the processing time for beef stock) The jars are sealed and put away in the cupboard, but I am worried about eating the soup. What can I do—if anything? Any help would be SOOOO appreciated!!!!

    • January 2, 2011 10:57 am

      Ohhhh…I don’t think that there is going to be any good answer here. First, I will ask how long ago you made this soup? If it was recently…like within 12-24 hours and your storage area is cool then I would probably open it up, smell it and assess the situation (it is likely fine). Here, when things do not seal we refrigerate them once they have cooled slightly and at least within 8 hours. If you think it is fine, then I would re-heat it again, put it into jars, and re-process the 500mL or pint jars for the required time of 75 minutes or 1L (quart jars) for 90 minutes (these times come from the National Center for Home Preservation). However, even this I would do cautiously. If your soup has been sitting on the shelves for longer than a day (24 hours) I am afraid the answer is worse. You will need to dispose of all your hard work. So sorry 😦
      I really hope that this does not discourage you from doing more pressure canning as it is an excellent way to put up and store things that you can’t use right away. And, please feel free to ask any other questions…we are always happy to help!

  5. Taras permalink
    September 24, 2011 3:14 am

    Hi, there are several things that can cause your jars not to seal.
    #1. Make sure that your jar lips are smooth and not chipped or cracked. Wipe well before placing lids on jars and center lids before tightening.
    #2. Not venting your canner for at least 10 min. After filling canner you must vent the canner for 10 min!!! Before placing the weight on the steam spout turn the heat to high. When the spout stops sputtering and a steady stream of steam is venting begin your timer. When timer goes off place your weight on the steam spout and begin your processing time when you have reached the proper pressure.
    #3. Quick and large changes in temp and pressure. SLOWLY bring the temp down if it goes too high and vice versa. After venting this is the second most likely cause of boilover. when bringing your canner up to the right temp begin to slowly reduce the temp before you go over.
    #4. When your processing time is up turn off the burner and DO NOT MOVE the canner! Go do something else for an hour. If you have a pressure gauge canner and it reads zero then using a wooden spoon gently jiggle the weight on the spout. Just because your gauge says zero doesn’t mean all the pressure has been relieved. If you hear hissing and sputtering wait another 10-15 min and try again and again until no more steam comes out. Now you can safely open your canner. If you have just a weight gauge canner just follow the jiggle method.
    #5. Always have your pressure gauge tested before you use it the first time and then once a year after that. Hope this helps, Taras

  6. Taras permalink
    September 24, 2011 3:25 am

    Sorry forgot one item. Proper head space is also important. Leave the correct head space for the item you are canning. If you don’t know than 1 inch is usually whats safe. Remember, TOO much head space is just as bad as not enough. Taras

  7. November 2, 2011 7:14 pm

    We canned 30 quarts of vegetable soup this year and about a week after it was canned about half of it the seals popped up, and we had to throw it away. We was told that you only had to pressure it for 5 minutes after the gauge reached 10 pound pressure. So I guess that was our problem, but we already had everything cooked that we put in it…So did we not pressure it long enough. If not let us know the time set for soup in pressure canners???? Thank You

    • November 5, 2011 3:05 pm

      Hi Shirley…unfortunately you’re right, the problem was not pressure canning your soup for enough time. Click here to read more about the length of time required for pressure canning soups. It’s too bad you had to throw it away but we hope you give it another try. Homemade canned soups are the best!

  8. November 29, 2012 8:21 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I bought myself a pressure canner and successfully (!) canned 6 x 1-quart jars of soup last night. Your information was VERY helpful.

  9. simone permalink
    December 17, 2012 1:57 pm

    Perhaps your soup did not turn out because of your jar quality. We only use Ball…

  10. Ned Hall permalink
    September 12, 2014 5:11 pm

    After canning 7 quarts of beef vegetable soup last night and letting it set until I came home from work. Now about 17 hours after I took it out of canner, find out only 2 jars sealed. I guess it has probably sat to long on the counter to save the other 5 unsealed jars? Thanks. First time to try and can soup.

  11. Erin permalink
    October 5, 2015 3:25 pm

    Last year I had this happen with a lot of the jars I processed, it was completely frustrating. First thing I did to trouble shoot was buy a new box of flat lids, even though I had just opened a box, I wondered if they were defective. I did not have the problems with the Ball lids that I experienced with the no name brand lids from Wal-Mart. The second thing I did was boil the lids longer, I believe It was about 6 minutes, just until the rubber gasket felt mushy when I placed it on the jar. Both of these solved my problem, I don’t know if it will work for you, or if this is even remotely helpful. Hopefully it will.

  12. Marianne Escobedo permalink
    March 11, 2016 12:29 pm

    I looked at the jars in the picture after the lids were on. I think the solution could be the soup is too high and close to the lid. I only fill mine up to the ‘shoulders’ and most of mine are fine. That gives about an inch for expansion of the liquid and it’s unlikely that the lids won’t seal. Keep at it!

  13. Jat permalink
    June 26, 2016 10:05 am

    I just had the same thing happen to me yesterday. While I did everything right, I realized I didn’t leave enough headspace and some jars had contents rise too much that the tops couldn’t seal. I’ll be more careful,with headspace because um at high altitude and it was almost an hour of processing time in my pressure canner.

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