Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Canning Chilli

Three boxes of Kilner jars!!!
I bought a canner recently and have been waiting very, very impatiently to try it out! Home canning is pretty well-known in the US but virtually unheard of over here in the UK. I bought the canner from the US and had it shipped over. The canner was roughly £50, plus another £50 for shipping and then I got stung for a £20 customs charge - so around £120 in all. Eeek! Good job I *really* wanted one! It's going to have to save us that money over time too so has its work cut out! I'm planning on canning alot of the allotment produce from this year though so we won't have to be paying out for the freezer electric it would normally use up.

For anyone who isn't familiar with canning or canners, it's basically a big pressure cooker which you use on the stovetop. You put the food into Kilner jars, put them inside the canner with several inches of water and pop the lid on the canner. You bring the water to the boil and let it "vent" through the steam vent for ten minutes to get rid of any air in the canner. After that time, you put a regulator weight over the steam vent and let the pressure begin building. The pressure you need to get it to depends on your altitude - the way a canner works is by getting the jars and food well above normal boiling point to kill off any bacteria (including botulism, which normal boiling temperature doesn't kill) and create a vacuum in the jars to seal them.

I picked up three dozen Kilner jars (£30, bargain!) on Sunday and tried out canning for the first time ... Chilli Con Carne. It's recommended that you only use recipes which have been fully tested by the USDA so that safe canning is then pretty failsafe - they've tested the pressure needed and the processing time. 
Heaven :~)
Here's the USDA's tested Chilli recipe:

3 cups dried pinto or red kidney beans
5-1/2 cups water
5 tsp salt (separated)
3 lbs ground beef
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped peppers of your choice (optional)
1 tsp black pepper
3 to 6 tbsp chili powder
2 quarts crushed or whole tomatoes
Yield: 9 pints
Procedure: Wash beans thoroughly and place them in a 2 qt. saucepan. Add cold water to a level of 2 to 3 inches above the beans and soak 12 to 18 hours. Drain and discard water. Combine beans with 5-1/2 cups of fresh water and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Drain and discard water. Brown ground beef, chopped onions, and peppers (if desired), in a skillet. Drain off fat and add 3 teaspoons salt, pepper, chili powder, tomatoes and drained cooked beans. Simmer 5 minutes. Caution: Do not thicken. Fill hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process.

Here's the recipe using UK measurements and tinned kidney beans instead of dried and a few different flavourings: 

3lbs lean minced beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillis, deseeded and very finely chopped
Generous amount freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 level teaspoons salt
Handful of dried garlic flakes
2 tsp ground cumin 
3 tblsp hot chilli powder
64 fl oz (just over 3 pints) tinned chopped tomatoes
3 400g tins kidney beans, drained and rinsed

The method I used was the same as above.
Jar of Chilli before processing
 I had a taste of the sauce before it was jarred up and it's pretty spicy! I'm surprised how thick the Chilli is actually - after reading so much about how you mustn't thicken things (as in using granules, flour ,etc.) if you're going to can them and after reading about how purees are dodgy to can because they're too thick for the heat to get through properly, I expected a pretty runny Chilli but it's alot thicker than I would normally cook it. I think when I use it I may add an extra tin of tomatoes with it to loosen it up a bit and to help cool it down for the kids. I *love* alot of Chilli heat but I think they'd moan :~)
Jars in the canner ready for processing
 I processed the jars at 12lb instead of the 11lb that the recipe said, just to be on the safe side and I also gave them 10 minutes extra just to be sure. Me ... paranoid? Yup!
Up to pressure
 After they were done and the canner had cooled and de-pressurised, I tentatively opened it up and saw lots of intact jars (phew!) but water stained with tomato and fat floating on the top of it ... Hmmmmn. Hadn't they sealed?
My canner :~)

Jars in the canner after processing - can you see the slight staining of the water?
 I left the jars in the canner to cool and could hear all the lids popping down and sealing which was reassuring. When they were completely cooled I took the screw tops off, checked that the sealing disc was firmly down (they all were) and washed them thoroughly to get rid of the overflowed Chilli. Even then, the lids all stayed completely sealed. 
Jar of Chilli after processing
 As you can see from the pic below, I photographed the stained jar lid and then posted that on a canning group asking if it was ok to store them. Two people got back paying it's quite common for that to happen when canning meat and that, as long as the seals stay good, then they're fine to store. Thank goodness for that! Next time I'll leave more headspace (the gap between the top of the food and the lid). I haven't tried the Chilli yet but may use some later in the week. Will report back about how it is :~)
Leaked Chilli under the ring
 I reckon I could adjust the recipe really well for a dish  the Munchkins like alot, Smokey Joe's Beef n' Beans, if I use different beans and swap the chilli powder for smoked paprika. 

1 comment:

Hedgehogpie said...

Deeply envious Lou, not just because you've got a canner to play with but co's the chilli looks so damned yummy too!

Looking forward to your further adventures. x