How to Home Can Chili

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Can fresh chili immediately after you prepare it for the safest results.
Can fresh chili immediately after you prepare it for the safest results. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Chili is a low-acid food, which means it does not contain enough natural acidity to inhibit the growth of botulism. A pressure canner is the only canner with which you can safely can chili, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This vessel uses pressure to increase the heat it applies to the jarred food, sterilizing the contents more reliably and effectively than other canning methods. Boiling-water canners and alternative methods, such as heating jarred food in an oven, leave chili susceptible to contamination.

Things You'll Need

  • Canning jars
  • Stockpot
  • Jar lifter
  • Metal canning lids
  • Screw bands
  • Canner rack
  • Pressure canner
  • Cooling rack

Wash canning jars in hot soapy water. Rinse the jars; then place them in a stockpot of hot or boiling water to keep them clean until you fill them.

Remove the chili from the stove approximately 5 minutes after you add the final ingredients. Don't reduce or thicken the chili. It will thicken during the canning process and storage.

Remove a jar from the stockpot with a jar lifter. Position the jar lifter below the ridged neck of the jar. Use care, since the pressure of the tongs-like tool can break the rim of the jar, which can be fragile under pressure.

Fill a jar with warm chili, leaving a 1-inch head space between the top of the food and the rim of the jar. Adequate head space is critical because food expands during the canning process, and the air in the space forms a vacuum seal when the jar cools.

Wipe the jar rim with a damp towel. Place a canning lid gasket-side-down on the jar. Secure the lid with a screw band. Tighten the band naturally, neither too firm nor too loose.

Place the canner rack inside the canner. Fill the canner with 2 to 3 inches of water; then center it on a stove burner. Set the stove to high. If the water level drops below 2 inches as it heats, add more water.

Transfer the filled jars to the pressure canner with the jar lifter. Keep the jars upright at all times to prevent liquid from breaching the gaskets, which would cause the seals to fail and contaminate the chili.

Fasten the lid on the pressure canner after you fill it with jars. Open the petcock or leave the weight off the vent. Set the pressure canner to its highest heat setting.

Allow the heat in the canner to build until steam emits from the petcock or vent it at a steady, moderate rate for 10 minutes. Close the petcock or place the weighted gauge on the vent.

Follow your canner’s instructions to determine the level of pressure you need to achieve. The required pounds per square inch of pressure -- the “PSIG” -- as measured by a gauge necessary to can chili varies from 10 to 15 pounds, depending on your canner and your altitude.

Start timing the process once the canner reaches the required pressure level. Process chili for 75 minutes to make it safe for long-term storage at room temperature, advises the USDA. Adjust the temperature on the stove or canner as needed to keep the pressure at or slightly above the recommended PSIG. If it drops below the recommended PSIG, increase the heat to regain the necessary PSIG and restart the timing process.

Turn off the stove. Transfer the canner to a cool burner or heat-proof surface if possible. Leave the canner on the original burner if it’s too heavy to move without jostling the jars.

Leave the jars in the canner and allow them to cool naturally. Do not attempt to expedite cooling with cold water or refrigeration, which would compromise the chili’s safety.

Wait for the pressure to return to 0 PSIG before opening the vent or petcock or removing the lid. Follow your canner’s instructions for venting and opening it. Aim the vent and lid away from yourself when opening them to prevent residual steam from burning you.

Remove the jars gently with a jar lifter. Set them on a cooling rack. Cool the jars to room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Keep them away from cold drafts or surfaces. Don't touch the screw bands or lids until the jars are completely cool.

Remove the screw bands before storing the cooled jars of chili. The bands are prone to rust or become stuck on the jars if you don’t remove them before you store the chili. Store canned chili between 50 and 70 degrees F for up to one year, according to the USDA. Refrigerate the chili after opening it, and consume it within four days.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid jars that are not manufactured specifically for home canning. Commercial jars for products such as mayonnaise are prone to seal failures and breaking.
  • Do not use canning lids that have cracked gaskets.
  • Do not allow the jars to rest directly on the bottom of the canner, where the direct heat could cause them to break. Use the rack that comes with the canner. It is safe for jars to touch other jars in the canner.

References

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