Commercially canned soups have fallen under fire in Americans' war on sodium.

Commercially canned soups have fallen under fire in Americans' war on sodium.

Cooks who resist the call of consummate convenience can produce tastier more healthful soups that hold up under pressure.

Homemade soups are the topics of a recurrent pressure-canning course planned next week at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. Beyond soups, participants will get an introduction to the mechanics of pressure-canning and guidelines for preserving low-acid foods like meat and vegetables.

While the cornucopia of vegetables and legumes, as well as meat poultry and seafood can be pressure-canned, using approved recipes is essential to the process. Several reliable recipes will be available at the Extension class.

Noodles, rice, flour and other fillers cannot be home-canned, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, because these can change the mixture's density and prevent it from heating entirely through inside the canner. Milk, cream and butter also must be omitted from pressure-canned soup while dried beans or peas must be not only rehydrated but fully cooked. Pressure-canning times, which kill botulism spores, vary depending on the type of food and range from an hour to nearly two hours.

With so much heat and time involved, canning novices may think they're sacrificing flavor, but Michele Pryse, president of Jackson County's FFEV, says just the opposite is true of home-canned food.

"The flavor is just incomparable," she says.

And while pressure-canning soups doesn't promote creativity, cooks can treat the jars' contents as shortcuts to more elaborate recipes. Pryse says she pressure-cans quarts of stock — the base of any good soup — from leftover bones and vegetables scraps that she saves in the freezer until she has enough to justify the time involved in canning.

"That's such a handy pantry staple to have."

FFEV also gives ideas for canning vegetable mixtures suited to specific soup recipes. These can be combined with stock to form the base of a soup then finished right before serving with butter, cream, rice, noodles or other additions not approved for canning.

Use homemade stock to enrich these soups.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.