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Tips for Canning Gumbo

September 11, 2018

It’s September and your garden is starting to look tired, with the exception of a few things. My little garden is producing okra at record rates, and I would certainly contribute to the heart disease of my entire family if I were to fry it up every single day. Tomatoes are still coming in, although the skins are tougher than they were just a few weeks ago. And not to mention that deer season is coming up quickly, and we still have a good bit of ground venison left.  Hey, that sounds like most of the ingredients for a good gumbo, and it cans up beautifully! Won’t that be tasty this winter? Here’s a recipe for canning gumbo.

The important thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to really follow it. Just throw in anything from your garden, make sure you have plenty of tomato or tomato sauce (the acidity is critical to preservation when it comes to canning) and remember you can always add more seasoning later.


  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 2 lbs okra
  • 2-3 ears of corn
  • 2 lbs tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  • Assorted hot peppers, if desired
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • Canned tomato sauce or tomato paste
  • Kosher salt


Start by preparing your jars for canning. I always boil a couple of jars more than what I think I’m going to need unless I plan on serving it for dinner as well. My favorite family-sized jar is the pint and a half, but those are hard to find, so today I used pint jars. Be sure the jars are completely submerged in water and get them boiling, as it takes quite a while to bring that much water up to boil. Plenty of people have pressure canning equipment, but I still do it the old-fashioned way because I simply have no room for another kitchen gadget. Canning kits with a magnet, jar vise, and funnel are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of room. The canning funnel is very helpful because it fits the jars perfectly and minimizes themes. Once the jars and lids have been sterilized, drain and allow to cool on a towel. I usually save the hot water to use later – it takes less energy to bring it back up to boil later, and a lot of times there isn’t a lot of time between the jars being sterilized and the gumbo is ready to can.

Cooking is so much easier if you mise un place (MEEZ ahn plahs), which is a French term for measuring and cutting all of the ingredients before you get started. So go ahead and wash the vegetables, slice the okra and peppers, cut and peel the tomatoes, and get the corn off the cob. If you don’t want to dirty up a lot of dishes, it’s perfectly fine to dump all of the veggies into a large stockpot. If you have been following this blog, you know that a lot of times I go into food chemistry and stress how important it is that certain steps are done in a particular order to have the desired reaction. That really isn’t the case with gumbo.

You may not have to peel the tomatoes, but I find that at the end of the summer, the skins are going to peel off anyway and if they are thick, you are going to find curled skins floating in your gumbo. My husband frankly could care less, but the kids always ask if there’s something wrong with it. If you don’t know how to peel a tomato, it’s not complicated but it takes more effort than folks let on. Plan for the extra time and ask for company in the kitchen (or turn the radio up!).

You need a pot of boiling water, a bowl full of ice water, a cutting board covered in paper towels, and a place to put the peeled tomatoes. After washing the tomatoes, score the bottom with an “X.” Drop the tomatoes 2 or 3 at a time into the boiling water for about 30 to 90 seconds – just long enough that the “X” starts to curl up. Then remove the tomato with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking and cool it enough so you can peel it. The peel should come off easily once you start tugging at the curled edges. If it doesn’t come off easily, you simply need to let them boil a little bit longer. For this recipe, there’s no need to worry about over-cooking them, but they will get squishy and harder to peel if they cook too long.

Once the veggies have been prepared, brown the venison. Put everything into the stockpot, stir well, cover, and place over medium heat. Stir frequently at first. If after 30 minutes the mixture is too thick, add a can of tomato sauce or equal parts tomato paste and water. Simmer for another 30 minutes then check the consistency again. Add more tomato sauce to thin or take the lid off to thicken. Taste and add additional seasoning or more hot peppers. The gumbo is finished when the peppers are cooked to the desired consistency. Note – peppers must be cooked or there will be negative circumstances in the canning process! If you really like crunchy peppers, consider leaving them out now and adding fresh peppers when you reheat it later.

Once the gumbo is ready to can, get your jars lined up and ladle it into the jars with the help of the canning funnel.  Leave a little room at the top to create a vacuum. Place lids loosely on the jars. If you have reserved the water from the sterilization process, note that you will probably need to drain off some of the water, as the gumbo-filled jars will displace water, and you don’t want water entering your gumbo jars. Place the jars into the water up to the neck of the jar. Bring to a hard boil such that the gumbo is also up to temperature again. Boil for about 15-20 minutes and remove from heat. Remove jars from water and place on a cutting board so that the heat won’t damage your counter surface. Allow to cool. As the gumbo cools, air will escape from the lid and a vacuum is created, causing the lids to pop down. Once it pops down, the proper seal has been created and you can tighten the outer ring, although it really isn’t necessary to screw it down tightly (sometimes you can break the seal by tightening!). If after 12 hours the lid doesn’t pop, you can re-process by boiling the jars again, but keep in mind you are now cooking it longer. While you won’t burn it, it might be over-cooked, so try to get the temperature right the first time. If it’s just one or two jars, I simply put the failed jars in the refrigerator and eat them as soon as possible.

You can use this canning process for anything that has the right acidity, which is why so many canned products contain either tomatoes or vinegar. Botulism can result from canning with an acidity less than a pH of 4.6. A pressure canning system is the only way to can low-acid vegetables like corn and peppers.

Read more: The Hunter’s Wife Series – Venison Saag Recipe

About the Author
Elizabeth Rhine is a Land Professional based out of our Greenville, South Carolina office. She began her career with National Land Realty in 2016, having previously worked in environmental remediation and Brownfield redevelopment with ARCADIS. She received her Bachelors Degree in Biology from Furman University and her Masters from Webster University. Elizabeth lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband wife of 22 years, Erik. They have three daughters, Sarah, Meredith, and Lexi. Elizabeth enjoys flame-working in her spare time, and is also a volunteer coach at Christ Church Episcopal School. View Elizabeth's Listings and Reviews on