When canning chili, it is critical to follow established general safety procedures and guidelines for canned foods, and to also observe precautions specifically related to canned foods with vegetables. Using the right canning equipment and ensuring that the chili is cooked to the proper temperature, for the proper time, are vital to canning chili safely. If the vegetables in canned chili are handled and canned properly after harvest, not only will it last longer, it will be free from harmful bacteria.
About 25 cases of botulism are reported each year, mainly from foods canned at home. Botulism is a serious paralytic illness caused by bacterial toxins that, if not treated, can be fatal. Botulinum spores grow only in the absence of air, but can multiply quickly in improperly canned foods. Home canners should only use steam pressure canners for canning chili and should follow recommended process times.
Chili contains vegetables that are low in acid. Vegetables low in acid should be processed in a steam pressure canner. Other methods of canning will not allow the product to reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit (116 degrees Celsius), the temperature needed to eliminate botulinum spores. Typically, a standard batch of canned chili should be cooked for 75 minutes in a steam pressure canner.
Fresh, tender and young vegetables are recommended when canning chili. The pressure canner should be adjusted in higher altitudes in order to reach a temperature of 240° Fahrenheit (116° Celsius). The pressure canner should be vented for 10 minutes before pressurizing. Before the canned chili is consumed, it should be boiled for at least 10 minutes.
Other general safety procedures for canning should be followed when canning chili. Only jars that are specifically designed for canning should be used. Jars need to be washed in hot water, rinsed well, and completely dried before using. Many people prefer to sterilize the jars as an extra measure of safety by soaking them in boiling water.
Hot chili should be poured into jars carefully, leaving about an inch of space between the top of the jar and the chili. Headspace is necessary to obtain a secure seal. A wooden or plastic spatula should be used to remove any trapped air by slowly turning the jar while moving the spatula up and down along the sides of the jar. After the jar is wiped clean and the lid placed on top, the band should be screwed on tightly.
The day after canning chili, the seals should be checked. The center of the lid should not move when pressed. Once a tight seal has been confirmed, the bands may be removed. Jars should be labeled with the date of canning. Canned food should be stored in a cool, dark place.