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Canning meats is easy. Easier in fact, than most fruits and many vegetables. The prep work is very little, and if you buy your meats on sale or in bulk it is relatively inexpensive. If you raise and butcher or hunt for your own meat, it's even less expensive.
At my house, we prepare canned beef and chicken mostly, but have also canned venison and other game as well. We don't have the land to raise a cow, but we do raise our own poultry for eggs and meat.
For larger stock we have a couple of options. First, we keep our eyes open for good bulk meat sales at the grocery stores and local meat lockers. Second, every couple of years we'll go in half with another family member or farming friend to buy a whole beef and have it processed at the local locker.
Of course not all the meat we buy or raise gets canned, some of it gets frozen as well. Canned meat will keep in storage and retain it's flavor much longer than frozen meat. Both have their place in the self sufficient home, but if there ever is a REAL emergency, and there no reliable electricity for extended amounts of time, you can rely on the canned meats, and if you have a gas stove, even the option of canning the frozen meats as they thaw.
Here's how it's done...
For purposes of demonstration, I used a couple of beef rump roasts that we purchased fairly cheaply at the local grocery. The two roasts combined weighed almost exactly 5 pounds, and resulted in 5 pints of canned beef. So the old adage: "A pint's a pound the world around" is relatively accurate for canning meats.
Canning meat is done using the pressure canning method, so you'll need all of the standard supplies for
If you're a novice to canning, read my canning safety page before going any further.
Because the meat will cook in the canner under pressure, even the toughest cut of meat will be tender and tasty after canning, so you don't have to go out and buy the finest cut of meat available for canning purposes - it would only be a waste of your money.
-The first thing you need to do is wash your canning Jars, rings and lids in hot soapy water, rinse them thoroughly, and set aside to drain.
Prepare the meat by first cutting away any excess fat or other undesirables (skin, gristle, bone pieces, etc).
Cut the meat into manageable sized pieces - pieces that will fit easily into your canning jars. I like to cube beef into roughly one inch chunks, but pieces can be larger. Whole boneless chicken breasts can be packed and canned just as well.
That's it - you're ready to pack and can the meat!
-Put 2-3 inches of water in your canner but DO NOT put it on the stove to boil.
SAFETY NOTE: Canning meat is different than cold pack canning of vegetables & fruit in that you don't pour boiling water over the meat in the canning jars. As a result, the packed jars will be very cold. NEVER put cold canning jars into a boiling canner. The thermal shock can (and frequently does) cause the jars to crack. This is a good way to waste your hard work and money, as well as a good way to get cut badly.
-Place canning lids in a small pan of water and bring it to a boil.
I prefer to use the cold pack method for canning meat, because it is much easier and takes less preparation time.
The Ball Blue Book describes a hot pack method also. It involves precooking the meat before canning, but it takes longer, and the only benefit that I have ever heard is that the canned meat "looks nicer in the jars".
Personally, I'm not looking for pretty, I'm looking for simple, tasty and functional. I won't be competing in the county fair anyway!
While the lids and canner are heating up, pack the meat into your canning jars. Leaving roughly 3/4 inch of headspace.
Add 1/2 tsp canning salt to each pint or 1 tsp to each quart.
When lids have boiled, wipe jar rims with a clean damp cloth or paper towel, apply lids and rings, and tighten to hand tight.
You might have noted that I didn't add any liquid to the jars - that was NOT an omission. As the meat cooks in the canner, it will produce enough broth to cover the meat.
Place packed and closed jars into the canner and then bring the water to a boil. Put lid on canner only after water has begun boiling.
Process at 10 to 11 psi. Pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. Follow your canner's instructions for venting and sealing lid.
When done, remove from heat, and allow pressure to drop off naturally (don't rush it by trying to vent off steam). When pressure has dropped completely, remove jars from canner, set aside and allow them to cool. You will hear the lids sealing ("plink!") as they cool.
Canned meats can be used to make tasty soups and stews, or it can be
browned in a skillet, and served as a main course. My favorite is
served with mashed potatoes and
home canned horticulture beans
The broth makes a fine gravy if you thicken it a bit with a little flour. Beef (or chicken) and homemade noodles are another of my favorites.
Even simply warmed up in a pan in it's own juices, it's pretty tasty.
Canning meats can help extend your food budget, provide your family with variety and healthy meal options, and help get you through hard times and seasonal fluctuations in food prices. Learning to can meat is just one more skill that you can add to your self sufficiency skills.