You actually filled your deer tags this year. Your fishing trip gifts you with more fish than you can eat. You have found a great deal on farm chickens. What do you do with all that meat? Have you ever considered canning it?
It is not something most people think of when they are looking to preserve meat, poultry or fish. Yet there is nothing more simple than just grabbing a jar and cooking. Why rifle through the freezer and risk freezer burned meat that has been stored a tad bit too long.
To make sure that your meat, poultry and fish are canned safely, it is important that you follow tried and true methods. All meats are canned using high temperature, or 240 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy food borne pathogens. This ensures that your meat can be stored without worry for up to a year.
The first necessity for canning low acid foods like meat is a pressure canner that heats jars to 240 degrees F. The method of canning using boiling water do not reach temperatures high enough. To can meat by this method would be unsafe. Most canners hold 7 quart or 9 pint jars.
Plan to have 1 pint jar for every 2 pounds of meat. You will need cleaned and sanitized Mason-type jars with new lids and good quality bands.
No matter what type of meat you are cooking make sure that it is a high quality cut that is free from blemishes, bruises, gristle or excessive fat. The fresher the meat, the better the product.
When canning chicken and rabbit use the freshest you can find. Mine goes from my rabbit house to the kitchen which is about as fresh as you can get Soak the rabbit in brine for an hour and then rinse. Chill chicken for 6-12 hours before canning. Remove excess fat as this will help prevent your meat from going rancid quickly. Cut it into suitable sizes for canning. You can pack them with or without bones. You can use 2 methods of packing, hot pack or raw pack.
In the hot pack method you must boil, steam or bake the meat until it is about 2/3 done. Add 1 tsp of salt per quart jar. Fill the jars with meat and hot broth or water leaving 1 inch of space. The raw pack method involves simply adding your tsp of salt to your jar with the meat and leaving out the liquid. I have never used the raw method but it certainly is an option for those who don’t want the broth.
Process in your pressure canner according to it’s instructions Processing times will vary so a reference chart will be later.
When canning ground meats always begin with fresh beef, lamb, pork, sausage, veal, or venison. When using venison add one part of pork fat before grinding. Shape chopped meat into patties and cook until lightly browned. Remove excess fat. Fill the jars with meat and 1 tsp salt then add your broth or water leaving one inch of space.
When canning your meats cubed always begin with chilled cuts. If you are packing a strong flavored wild meat then let it soak for an hour in a salt brine before chilling. If you are using the hot pack method cook your meat until it is considered rare.
You may also use the meat drippings or any discarded parts of your animals to create a broth for canning and using later in soups and stews. Simply boil bones and discards until meat is tender and can be picked off the bones. Let it cool and skim off the fat. Add the meat back to the stock and reheat to boiling. Fill jars leaving 1 inch of space.
For all fish except tuna the prep is the same. Use fresh catches. Remove the head, tail and fins. Wash the fish carefully removing all blood. Split the fish lengthwise and cut into chunks and pack tightly into jars. Add your 1 tsp salt and water leaving 1 inch space. Tuna can be packed precooked or raw. Precooking removes most of the oil but also a lot of the health benefit. If you choose to precook bake your fish at 225-250 degrees for 2 1/2 to 4 hours depending on fish size. Make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165-175 degrees. Refrigerate fish overnight to firm the meat. Place into the jars with your water, salt and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil per half pint jar. If canning raw, filet the fish and remove the skin. Remove blood vessels or any discolored flesh. Cut meat into quarters and pack tightly. As with the raw canning method there is no need to use water.
Processing times for meats can be anywhere from 60-90 minutes depending on what you have packed. You need to be vigilant while they are being heated making sure your canner holds its temperature throughout the recommended time.
TYPE OF MEAT PACK TYPE PROCESS MINUTES
Chicken or Rabbit w/bones hot or raw pints 65, quarts 75
Chicken or Rabbit hot or raw pints 75, quarts 90
Ground and chopped meat hot pints 75, quarts 90
Meat cubed, strips, chunks hot or raw pints 75, quarts 90
Meat stock hot pints 20, quarts 25
Fish raw pints 100
Tuna raw/precooked pints/ 1/2 pints 100
*All PSI will be 10 from 0-1,000 feet and 15 for above 1,000 feet
Pour 4-5 inches of hot water in the canner. Place filled jars in the rack and fasten the canner lid tightly. Leave the weight of the vent port. Heat at the highest setting until steam pours from the vent port. Exhaust the steam for 10 minutes then place the weight on the vent port. The canner will pressurize during the next 3-5 minutes. Start the timing process when you reach proper pressure. Regulate the heat to maintain a proper pressure. If your pressure falls below the target pressure, reset your timer and restart your process. When the timing is done turn off the heat and remove the canner from the source if possible. Let it depressurize. After the pressure returns to zero remove the weight from the vent port. Wait 2 minutes and unfasten the lid. Remove the jars with the jar lifter and place on a cooling rack. Cool for 12-24 hours. Check your seals before storing. If you find one that is faulty refrigerate the contents and use within 2 weeks. Store the rest for up to 1 year!
Good luck and good canning!