Canning, Drying & Fermenting
Up until last year (2012) I swore I’d never can meat. My hubby even teased me about “raw packing meat” since I was so strongly opinionated against it… (just an FYI the raw meat you start with is cooked while being canned so it’s not raw when you’re done)
Growing up I have fond memories of helping my grandmother can tomatoes, green beans, grape jelly and strawberry jam.. all of which started with picking fresh fruit/veggies from her garden. However, the fondness of canned goods stopped at the curious looking cans of meat lurking in her pantry.. They were always there “Just in case” but I never remember them being eaten.. I even remember my parents having a few of the jars of canned meat in their basement and eventually throwing them out.. I assumed it was yucky…
When I was 22 I met my hubby and in our first few months dating he took me wild black raspberry picking, they are my favorite fruit… We returned with over 2 gallons of berries!!! Of course I made a pie and a crumb cake.. and ate many of them fresh.. but I also dipped my toes in the canning pool, making my first batch of jelly (solo).
I’m not going to lie, my first attempt was a complete failure.. my jelly didn’t set. I was so bummed out 🙁 All that work for nothing.. well not “nothing” we did have amazing black raspberry pancake syrup for the next couple years!! My first failed attempt taught me lessons I didn’t even realize at the time.. following instructions and quality ingredients are the key to success (since my failure was attributed to using cheap sugar that wasn’t sugar, always use organic or at least domino brand)
Fast forward 14 years of canning experience, I finally started canning meat. We raise our own chickens (Click HERE for more info on WHY and HOW) and last year when packaging up chicken for the freezer….. I wanted to experiment with canning chicken so that there was a way for us to have a shelf-stable supply of chicken… “just in case” .. what our freezer quits?? Then what?? What if there’s a food shortage, electricity out, etc.. Luckily.. even though my grandmother isn’t here to teach me, I did have her recipe! 🙂
Well, my little cans of chicken looked good and after a few months on the pantry shelf I mustered up the courage to sample my experiment.. WOW. Really good!! Quickly we ate up all the little jars and wished we had more!!! So much for “Just In Case!’
There are a few things I did differently than my grandmother…Those “yucky” jars of canned chicken, were chicken on the bone with skin (they looked like a creepy science experiment) and they were big quart jars… I adapted her recipe, along with some proven recipes I found.. to be very similar to the “canned chicken” you can buy at the grocery store…
Smaller jars and boneless/skinless chunks of both white & dark meat chicken are the key to my successful little cans of chicken!!! Although, I use wide mouth half pint jars (approximately 1 cup of chicken), you can also use regular/wide mouth pint jars if you have a larger family.
I hate to have to remind you, some of you “get it” already… some of you are still discovering this world of healthy real food.. Always, Always use the best quality chicken you can. Locally raised, Know your farmer, raised on pasture, in the grass, free ranging, quality feed, all that jazz…. no exceptions! Don’t be responsible for keeping companies in business that are abusing animals to save you a few dollars for nutrient deficient food!! We raise our own but also have 2 local farms we trust; The Family Cow and Working H Farms… (need help finding a local farm, try www.localharvest.org) Many times local, small farms will offer bulk discount pricing on their chickens, So..buy a bunch and put some in the freezer but CAN some too! You’ll be prepared for an emergency with healthy nutritious food YOU MADE!
Ok… Let’s get on How To Can Chicken, right??
Here’s what you need (basic list):
- Pressure Canner/Pressure Cooker – They are the same thing 🙂
- Canning Jars
- Canning Lids
- Bands for your canning jars
- Bubble remover
- Canning Funnel
- Magnetic Lid Picker’upper or holder
- Paper towels
- Chicken, skin removed, cut off the bone and into 1 inch chunks – leave little bits of fat with the meat for extra flavor.
- Sea Salt
- Water (for both inside your presser canner and boiling to put in your jars)
To make things easier, I’ve created a Canning Store for you.. it’s EVERYTHING you need to get started canning.. Click HERE.. Do pay special attention to the canning jars/lids I have included.. make sure you have the right lids/bands to match your jars.. when you purchase NEW cases of jars, they come with 1 set of lids and reusable bands. And after your jars are sealed & cooled, remove the bands to use next time you can! You don’t need to leave the bands on!
Ok, before we get started into how I can my chicken, I need to tell you.. I am only telling you what I do, what’s been handed down to me through generations. Our government, through the USDA, has issued canning safety guidelines.. but I cannot guarantee that what I do follows their direction.. That being said.. I’m not an “expert” in anything… I’m sure you understand that just to protect myself I gotta tell you this stuff 🙁 Oh what a wacky world we live in that I have to waste time saying all this jibber-jabber!!!
And YES chicken MUST be pressure canned! Anything containing meat must always be pressure canned!!! As do non-acid foods like green beans. Don’t freak out. Don’t be worried about pressure canning, it’s no big deal, I promise.. forget all the rumors and old wive’s tales.. it’s a bunch of BS. Just follow the instructions in the manual, you’ll be fine!! If you have questions ask me.. I’ve been using a pressure canner/cooker for nearly 15 years, I have 6 of them!!! and all of mine are hand-me-downs! (maybe I’ll post a quick video someday)
Alright now we can get back to business…… I’m going to try to be a clear as I can and go into all the little details so it’s easy to understand.. for those of you who are experienced canners here’s all you need to know.. Raw pack your chicken in hot sterilized pint jars w/1in headspace add water and 1/4t salt, secure lids, can at 10 pounds pressure for 1 hr 15 min.. If that didn’t make complete sense don’t worry after a few canning projects it will 🙂
Here’s How to Can Chicken:
- The very first thing I do is put jars into my pressure canning pot to see how many will fit… nothing is worse than having 10 jars ready to be canned and only 9 will fit!!! So once you know how many jars will fit in your canner you know the MAX jars to use/fill for this batch… save the rest of your chicken to be canned later when this batch is done.
- Wash and sterilize your jars (this is how all canning projects MUST begin!) Most people sterilize their jars in a pot of boiling water, I learned to sterilize mine in the oven (from my hubby’s grandmother).. To make it easier, put your jars on a cookie sheet and place your oven at 215 degrees for 15 minutes (water boils at 212, temperature is temperature.. regardless of wet or dry heat it will kill any icky stuff that was leftover after washing) When your jars are done, you can just remove the whole cookie sheet w/jars and the cookie sheet will catch any messes for easy clean up!!! Oh, and I put down a towel on the counter, I’m a very mess cook!
- In a small pot, place your canning lids in water and warm over medium heat.. and check to make sure your bands are clean and rust free.
- While your jars are sterilizing, bring water (preferably filtered) to a boil that will be used in your canned chicken (I use my electric tea kettle, since it has a pour spout, but a pot & ladle works too)
- Pack your raw chicken chunks in to your sterilized jars, leaving approximately 1inch of headspace, using a canning funnel to keep your jar rims clean…
- Add sea salt to each jar of raw packed chicken (half pint = 1/8t, pint =1/4t, quart=1/2t), the salt is not mandatory, but it really does improve the flavor of your chicken!
- Pour a little boiling water to each packed jar, and using a plastic canning bubble remover push down around the edges to allow air to escape and water to sink down, add/remove water as needed.. you want your chicken chunks to have water filling the air pockets in between the pieces and a very thin layer on top, yet still about 1in headspace… and yes your chicken chunks will turn white (cooked) a little from the boiling water, that’s fine.
- Once all of your jars are filled with chicken, salt and water… using a damp paper towel wrapped around your finger, wipe each jar rim to make sure it’s clean (so it makes a good seal with the lid)
- Secure 2 piece lids (flat and band).. you want them to be snug but not super wrenched down tight..
- Place each jar into your Pressure Canner, add enough water to come up to the band but not over it.. (if the water goes over the band/lid the liquid inside the jar can escape while canning!) I stacked my widemouth half pint jars in 2 layers, yet the water was only on the bottom layer of jars.. the height of your canner and jars will determine if that will work for you!
- Seal up your pressure canner, put on your gauge and following the manufacturers instructions, process at 10 pounds of pressure (half pints=1 hour, pints=1 hour + 15min, quarts=1 hour + 30 min)
- When your time is up, allow your canner to depressurize before removing the lid (see your manufactures instructions)
- Using your jar grabber, remove your jars and set them on a towel to cool… let them set for 24 hours relatively undisturbed…. You’ll hear POP! and PING! as they seal.. I just LOVE that sound!! That means I did everything right!
- Periodically you will have a jar that does not seal (jars that seal the lids will be flat, jars that did not seal will be raised slightly in the center and when you push on them they will go up/down a little – always check every jar before you use what’s in it! always!)
- If a jar does not seal, what’s inside is OK to eat right now.. put it in the fridge and eat it in the next day.. but it’s not safe for storage!!
Your canned chicken will safely store in your panty for a couple years. Just be sure to toss anything that becomes discolored, is not sealed or has a off or foul smell when opened.
8 pounds of chicken chunks yielded me 21 wide mouth half pints.. When you open your jars of chicken, you’ll see that your chunks of chicken that the water you added turned into broth and is a little jellied (that’s a good thing!) I don’t want this sound unappetizing, but it’s almost like chicken in jelly.. but it’s not yucky at all.. it’s what SHOULD happen! Here’s a pic of one of my jars (I opened it just to show you, talk about sacrifice!)