Tutorial: Canning Meat

Over the years I have gotten the oddest looks from people when I mention that I have canned meat in my pantry. They first think of potted meat or Spam... yuck. After I briefly explain that I have chicken, beef, roast and sausage, then the tides turn and the next question comes... "How in the world do you can meat?"
I didn't learn how to preserve food in all my years of studying nutrition (most of those years were spent learning how to correct diets, treat diseases with dietary restrictions or teaching basic nutrition principles- how to read a food label... all of which are very important). It would take a 10+ year degree to really touch on all the different aspects of nutrition.

But alas, food canning is a big part of self-reliance and a principle that I have been taught my entire life. Having cans of rice, powdered milk and beans under beds or piled in closets was common place in our home and never appeared odd (until a friend would ask "Why in the world do you have rice in your closet?").  When you live in hurricane central you learn to be prepared not scared. To learn more about the importance of self-reliance and how to get started visit HERE.

Here is my pressure cooker, it is over 20 years old and I stole inherited it from my grandma's kitchen. Pressure cookers can be a little pricey but a good sturdy one is worth the money. I was curious if this one was still available and I found it on Amazon.

You will need to read your pressure canning manual to get the specifics for your canner. For this one, add 2 inches of water (before placing the jars inside). I like to start the stove so that the water is hot before I put the jars in just to help speed up the "venting" step.

  • Instruction manual for your pressure cooker (if you lost it, google the instructions). You need to know how much water to add to the bottom and how to properly tighten your lid
  • Mason Jars (I like quart size, wide mouth jars for meat)
  • Seals (these cannot be reused like the jars and rings)
  • Rings
  • Tongs
  • "Jar Lifter"  to get the hot jars out of the canner (pictured)

Now, fill you jars with meat. There are only two chicken breasts in each jar but I usually pack in 3 breasts easily and just leave about an 1 1/2 inches of space between the meat and the lid (don't over stuff the jars-- bad news and big mess).

No need to add water because it will make its own broth.

I don't add salt but you can if you would like. Use canning salt and add 1/2 tsp for pint jars and 1 tsp for quart jars. *You can use regular salt, it just might make the liquid a little more cloudy.

Now place your jars in the cooker and tighten the lid (just like the manual instructs). Turn the fire on high and and wait for the steam.

This is a very important step in the canning process. Wait until you hear the steam consistently shooting out from the stem (pictured ->) and then start timing. Most canners vent 10 minutes and then you flip your stem and start building pressure. Once the stem in locked you will start to watch your pressure gauge as it begins to build up the pressure.
Pounds (#) of Pressure:

  • Raw chicken, beef, rabbit & deer cook at 11# pressure
    • pint size jars process for 70 minutes
    • quart size jars process for 90 minutes
  • Raw Seafood (fish or shrimp) process for 100 minutes
You have to watch that dial very closely and adjust your fire up or down to keep the pressure just right. If the pressure drops below 10# then you have to build the pressure back up and start your time over. I live in Southeast Texas, other areas may need to adjust for altitude and use more or less #'s of pressure when canning. Visit your areas Extension Services for more information on your areas altitude.

Now, after you have trudged through the 70 or 90 minute wait... you get to wait longer! Keep the stem locked and turn off the stove. It will take an hour or more for the canner to cool down and start to release pressure. You can test to see if the pressure is down by lifting the stem. If it starts spewing, flip it down and continue to wait for the cool down. I usually leave it and take care of other things and then come back and check on it. Use the "Jar Lifter" to remove the jars from the canner, the water will still be very hot.
*If you lift up the stem and let it vent out the pressure (to hurry things along), you will suck the juice out of your jars and possibly break the seals.  Also, you might want to wipe off the outside of the jars when you take them out of the canner. They might have a little residue from the water.

Expiration Date:
*the sausage fat is easier to see in pictures than chicken fat
These jars of meat last A LONG TIME! I mean years, 10+. No worry of electrical outage or freezer burn! So how can you tell if the meat has gone bad? It's simple, look at the fat layer. Fat floats to the top of the liquid and forms a ring of fat at the surface (it separates from the juices). If it is not floating at the top like the picture then the meat has gone rancid and you need to dispose of it.

If you have an questions feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Happy Canning! 

Special thank you to Monica Jarrell for taking the time several years ago to teach me how to can meat about 12 hours before Hurricane Rita made landfall. I was 7 months pregnant with my first child and worried about everything, including my freezer :). She took the time to teach me the process and even let me borrow a canner. She is a food storage specialist and I am grateful for all the knowledge she shares... all you have to do is ask! Thank you!

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