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In this diary, I’ll show you how to can meat, broth, and soup  stock. If you didn’t get a chance to read the other diaries in this series, and you need a simple overview of basic canning skills, you can read them here:

How To Can, Part 1: Using A Water Bath Canner
How To Can, Part 2: Pie Fillings, Fruit Sauces and Butters, And Fruit Juice
How To Can, Part 3: Making Jellies, Jams, And Preserves
How To Can, Part 4: Using A Pressure Canner

Noddy also wrote a very good diary on small batch canning. Give it a read if you are interested in canning small quantities at a time.

A few winters back, we got hit by a terrible ice storm that knocked the power out at our house for over  two weeks. I had a freezer full of meat that was going to go bad--there was  no way we could have eaten it all before it would have thawed out and spoiled. And of course, a day or two after the storm, the temperature outside got back above freezing, and stayed there--so taking the meat outside wouldn’t have helped, either. But luckily, we still had natural gas to run our cookstove, and running water--so I ended up pressure canning most of the meat I had in the freezer. Sometimes having a canner and some extra jars laying around can be mighty handy!

Meats, like vegetables, are a low-acid food that must be canned in a pressure canner. A pressure canner will thoroughly tenderize even the toughest cuts of meat--in addition, canned meats tend to have a richer, somewhat stronger taste than conventionally prepared meats. I usually process meats in pint jars for this reason--a little canned meat goes a long way in casseroles, soups, and stews.

It’s important to remove as much fat as possible from the meats you will pack in your jars--too much grease can affect the jar’s ability to seal. When you clean the rims of the jars before putting the lids on, it’s very important that you get all of the oil off them--I usually warm up some vinegar in a bowl in the microwave, and use it to clean the rims. The vinegar does a good job of cutting the grease.

And on a side note while we’re on the topic of grease--if you are in a situation in which you are trying to survive on very little money, you can use the fat trimmings from meat you have canned to render out lard. For those of you who might be too young to remember, lard was what our grandparents used in the place of cooking oil and shortening. Save the fat trimmings from pork and beef by putting it in plastic bags, and store it in the freezer. Once you have enough fat trimmings to halfway fill a medium sized kettle, you can render out a small batch of lard. Just thaw it out, and put it in a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot or saucepan. Cook it over medium heat until the “cracklings” are crispy. Then turn it off and let it cool, but not solidify. Once it has cooled, strain it through a metal strainer. You could use the lard just the way it is if you want , but it’s best to clarify it a bit. Just put the warm lard back in the kettle, and add about 2 cups of water for every cup of lard. Bring it to a hard boil, and let it cook about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and allow it to cool completely. The clarified lard will rise to the top and solidify, and any debris, such as small pieces of meat, will sink to the bottom in the water. Once it has solidified, just scrape it off the top, and store it, covered, in the fridge.

Lean cuts of pork, beef, and chicken can be raw-packed if you prefer. If you raw pack meat, you generally don’t add water to fill the jar the rest of the way like you do with vegetables. Instead, you just let it cook in it’s own juices. Sometimes, you may notice that the jar doesn’t completely fill with liquid--this is okay, as long as the jar is properly sealed. You can also can cuts of meat with the bone still in, like chicken legs or thighs. I personally prefer to precook those kinds of meat, though, and hot pack them. It’s a lot more convenient when you’re getting ready to use them. To me, the skin on chicken canned this way seems kind of nasty. Ground meats, such as hamburger, should be pre-cooked, and hot packed. Very fatty meats, such as bacon, cannot be successfully canned. When hot packing meats, add boiling water or broth to the jars, just like you do with fruits and vegetables.

In general, leave 1-½ inches of headspace in the tops of jars of meat, whether it is hot or raw packed. Some authorities claim you can get by with just 1 inch of headspace. In my experience, this isn’t enough--I tried it a few times, and I ended up having some of the liquid boil out of the jars, causing some of them to not seal properly. Increasing the amount of headspace solved the problem. If you are frying ground meat into patties, or if you are canning pieces of bone-in chicken, it’s best to use wide-mouth jars--this makes the meat much easier to pack, and get back out of the jars. Meats that have been previously frozen are fine for canning. Freshly butchered meat should immediately be chilled to below 40 degrees before you can it. Make sure you remember to make the necessary adjustments to pressure for your altitude. See Part 4 for instructions on how to do this, or read the documentation that came with your canner.

Rather than give you a chart detailing the amount of meat you will need in order to make a full canner load, like I did with fruits and vegetables, I’m going to give you individualized instructions for various cuts of meat. The amount of useful meat you will get can vary considerably, according to the fat content of the meat, and what percentage of it is bones. Especially if you have to remove the bones and /or skin from the meat, smaller batches are easier to work with.

Hot-packed chicken, removed from the bone   I usually process about 10 lbs. of chicken at a time. You can use chicken leg quarters, whole, cut up chickens, or pieces of chicken breast. This type of canned chicken is good in casseroles or stews, and makes great BBQ, chicken burritos, or tacos. I usually get 5-6 pint jars out of a 10 lb. batch. You may get a few more than that if you use all chicken breast.

First, place the chicken in a large kettle, and pour in enough water to cover it. Cook, covered, until the meat is just tender. Remove it from the water, and let it cool completely. Turn off the water, and allow it to cool as well. If you like, you can stop here, and put the chicken in the fridge overnight. You will also need to put the broth in the fridge--put it in a large bowl, and cover it.  When you’re ready to can, prepare your work area, and wash your jars, lids, and rings. Start boiling the jars, and get the lids and rings ready to go.  Remove the chicken from the bones, and place it in a large bowl until you’re ready to use it. Set aside the skin, bone, and gristle if you want to make a batch of broth or stock later. Skim the fat from the top of the broth--if you don’t think you will have enough to pack the jars (rare), add some water, and bring it to a boil just before you pack the jars. Once the jars are done sterilizing, set up the area where you will pack the jars. Fill the jars, leaving 1-½ inches of headspace. Fill with enough water to cover, and stir to remove any air bubbles. Clean the rims of the jars, and put on the lids and rings. Process according to the chart below.

Hamburger  I usually can about 5 lbs. of hamburger at a time. Canned hamburger is good for making tacos, putting in spaghetti, and making chilli--you can pretty much use it in the same way you would use regular browned hamburger meat. . I usually get 4-5 pints out of 5 lbs. of hamburger. You might get a little more if you use ground beef from chuck, since less of it will fry away as grease.

Prepare your work area, and wash your jars, lids, and rings. Start boiling the jars, and get the lids and rings ready to go.  Start a kettle of water boiling to use to pack the jars. Brown and drain the hamburger, or fry it into patties. If you fry it into patties, use wide mouth jars. Pack the jars, leaving 1-½ inches of headspace. Pour in enough boiling water to just cover the meat. Stir to remove any air bubbles. Clean the rims of the jars, and put on the lids and rings. Process according to the chart below.

Beef or Pork Roasts--hot packed   I usually process about 2 roasts at a time--but no more than 10 lbs at a time. Canned pork and beef can be used in casseroles and stews, to make BBQ, or to simply with gravy. You can use any cuts you prefer. The number of jars will get depends upon how much fat and bone you have to remove, and how much meat you used. As a rule of thumb, I sterilize 1 pint jar for every 2 pounds of unprocessed meat I start out with, then add a few extra. You will get more usable meat out of leaner roasts.

Cut the meat up into small pieces, and put in a large kettle. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and cook, covered, until just done. Remove the meat, and allow it to cool. Cool the broth as well. If you like, you can stop here, and put the meat in the fridge overnight. You will also need to put the broth in the fridge--put it in a large bowl, and cover it.  When you’re ready to can, prepare your work area, and wash your jars, lids, and rings. Start boiling the jars, and get the lids and rings ready to go.  Skim the fat off the broth, and start boiling it in a large kettle. If need be, add more water if you don’t think you’ll have enough to pack the jars. Pick the meat off any bones that might be present, and remove the fat or gristle. Loosely pack the meat in the jars, leaving 1-½ inches of  headspace. Pour enough boiling broth over the meat to just cover it. Clean the rims of the jars, and put on the lids and rings. Process according to the chart below.  

Raw-packed boneless beef, pork or chicken breast  To can these, you will want to use lean cuts of beef or pork, and trim away as much fat as possible. Pork tenderloin, lean round beef or stew meat, or boneless, skinless chicken breast will give the best results. I usually get about a pint jar for every pound of meat I use.  I make home-made chicken salad out of canned chicken breast.

Prepare your work area, and wash your jars, lids, and rings. Start boiling the jars, and get the lids and rings ready to go.  You don’t need to prepare a kettle of boiling water to raw pack meat--it cooks in it’s own juices. If canning beef or pork, trim away any visible fat. Then, cut the beef, pork, or chicken into 1 inch cubes. Pack the jars, leaving 1-½ inches of headspace.  Clean the rims of the jars, and put on the lids and rings. Process according to the chart below.

Canned fish   You can use either fresh or frozen fish of any kind. Notice that fish should be processed a lot longer than poultry or meat--I have found a number of canning recipes in cookbooks and online that only call for fish to be processed for the same length of time as poultry or beef--these recipes are unsafe. Before canning anything, you should always check a reputable source, such as one of the state university cooperative extensions, to get the most current information on the correct processing times.

If you’re using frozen fish, just thaw it out. If using fresh fish, remove the head, tail, fins, skin, and if you want, the bones. Cut the fish into 2 inch pieces, and pack it into the jars, leaving 1-½ inches of headspace. Clean the rims of the jars, and put on the lids and rings. Process according to the chart below. You should keep fish refrigerated until you are ready to pack the jars.

Canning game meats, such as venison  Venison can be canned in the same manner as pork or beef. To remove the gamey taste,  you can soak it in brine water for at least one hour before you can it. Make the brine out of 1 tbsp. salt per quart of water, then rinse the meat before you process it. You can also pack it in tomato juice, if you like. Game birds such as quail or duck can be processed in the same manner as poultry.

Processing Times for Meats and Fish

Beef, chicken, pork, or game meats, hot or raw packed

Pints                                  Quarts
75 min                               90 min.


Pints                                   Quarts
100 min.                             165 min.

Canning Broth and Stock

If you are hot packing meat--especially if you have leftover liquid from pre-cooking it, and some leftover skin and/or bones, you might as well put it all to good use, and can a batch of broth or a seasoned stock. It’s very easy to do--and it will save you money. A can of chicken broth costs a dollar or more at the grocery store--and if you can your own after you’ve canned some meat, you’re getting it for free!

To make broth, return the bones to the cooking liquid, along with any leftover skin, if making chicken broth. Crack the bones to give the broth a richer flavor. If needed, add enough extra water to cover the skin and bones. Bring to a boil, then turn it down and simmer it, covered, for 3 or 4 hours. Strain the broth through a colander or strainer, reserving the liquid in a large bowl. Allow the broth to cool, then put it in the fridge for several hours. When ready to can, skim off the congealed fat from the top of the broth. Prepare your work area, and start sterilizing your jars. Get your lids and rings ready to go.  In another kettle, bring the broth back to a boil. Pour it into the hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 20 minutes, and quarts for 25 minutes.

Making a seasoned soup stock is just like canning a plain broth--I like to throw a few bay leaves in my beef broth. For chicken or pork broth, I throw in a few stalks of celery and a little onion. Just add the seasonings in when you simmer the broth. The processing times are the same.

I personally have a few reservations about the short processing time recommended by many experts for broth and stock--especially if it has a lot of chunks of meat floating around in it. Call me paranoid, but I just can’t see how processing a pint of meaty broth for only 20 minutes will kill all the botulism spores. If I can a broth that has a lot of meat in it, I process pints for 75 minutes, and quarts for 90 minutes. I’ve never had any problems with quality doing it that way, and it gives me peace of mind. How long you choose to process your broth or stock is up to you.

This diary concludes my series on the basics of canning. You can find a lot of good information about canning online, and in a number of books. In closing, I’d like to offer a few more tips:

Make sure you properly maintain your canner. Read the documentation that came with it, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you don’t have the documentation, you can often find it online--just type the brand and model number into a search engine, and you should be able to find it. Also, get the gauge on your canner checked at your local cooperative extension periodically, to make sure it is still registering properly.

When deciding whether or not you should attempt to can a recipe you find online, or in a cookbook, look at whether or not it comes from a reputable source. If you’re not sure, look at the list of ingredients. The processing time should be at least equal to the processing time for the ingredient with the lowest acid level. If you aren’t sure, don’t try it!

Should something happen while you’re canning that causes the temperature of the canner to drop while you’re processing it--perhaps there is a power outage, or you have to turn the canner off because of some emergency--you’ll have to start the processing time over from zero. Jars that don’t seal properly should be eaten right away, or taken out of the jars and stored in the freezer.

Though many home canned foods will last two or three years, I never can more than we will use in a year. Lower acid foods like green beans tend to have a longer shelf life than higher acid foods. Some jellies and jams start changing color and getting a little runny after about six months.

Store your canned products in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. You should always check jars of canned food for signs of spoilage, such as an off-odor, off-color, or if you see bubbles start boiling out of it when you open the jar. If in doubt, throw it out! Low acid foods should be boiled for 10 minutes before you eat them.

With all that said--happy canning! If you have any questions, post them below, and if I know the answer to your question, I’ll see what I can do to help you. Next, maybe I’ll do a few diaries on pickling.

Originally posted to Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:19 AM PST.

Also republished by Urban Homesteading, Toolbox, and Community Spotlight.

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