Since we purchased our pressure canner last year, we’ve wanted to try canning meat. We love the idea of being able to store meat from the cuts that we like to reduce fat and mystery meat. And, we can buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale and have a way to store it long-term outside of our freezer. It’s a win-win. Canned meat will store for 3 years if it is kept in a cool dark room.
We bottled super lean (93% / 7%) ground beef and chicken breasts in pint and quart jars. Here is the step-by-step process we used:
1. Start with clean bottles in new condition (no chips or cracks).
2. Ready a large pot of hot water to fill jars, or create a vegetable stock like we did. Combine water, celery, carrots, onion and herbs (if desired) in a large pot on a back burner of your stove to create a vegetable stock that will season the meat in the jars. We liked adding this stock to the meat. It is subtle enough that the meat can still be used in any recipe, but just adds a little flavor.
3. Meats need to be lean for canning. Fatty meats may not can well because the fat can interfere with the seal of the jar. Use ground beef that is 90% lean or leaner. For chicken, cut raw chicken breasts into large pieces and place raw meat into jars. We got about 1 lb. of meat per pint jar. For ground beef, brown the meat until it is almost cooked through before loading it into the jars. Fill the jars with meat up to 1/2″ from the rim. Some sites online say to add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of salt to each pint jar at this point. We had read that with pressure canning, the salt is only added for seasoning rather than preserving, so we left it out to reduce sodium. I don’t know there is an official rule on this.
4. Using a canning funnel, pour water or stock over the meat up to within 1/2″ of the rim to fill in around the meat. Use a canning wand or handle of a wooden spoon to poke into the jars and release any air bubbles in the jars.
5. Wipe jar rims clean of any grease or meat pieces. Place lids on jars (it is good to place the lids in hot water for about 2 minutes to soften the rubber seal). Tighten on rings, but don’t twist them on hard or you may cause your jars to crack during cooking.
6. Put the rack into the pressure canner (Remember this process does not work correctly in a pressure cooker. You need a pressure canner.) and add 2-3 inches of water (refer to the instruction manual for your canner) and about 1/4 c. white vinegar (this will keep your jars free from hard water marks during processing). Place filled jars onto rack. Attach the canner lid and secure it on. Leave the weight off of the vent port. Turn the burner to high heat and “exhaust” the canner–wait until a steady flow of steam is leaving the open vent port. Let this column of steam flow continuously for 10 minutes. After exhausting the canner for 10 minutes, put the weight on. Watch for the gauge to get up to pressure. For our elevation, we canned at 15 lbs. pressure. Once the canner reaches the appropriate pressure, reduce the heat to maintain the poundage. Closely monitor this at first to assure that the gauge is staying where it needs to, and adjust burner as necessary.
7. Once the pressure is where you want it, begin timing. Pints: 75 minutes. Quarts: 90 minutes. If you are canning fish, add an extra 15 minutes.
8. Continue checking on the canner to monitor pressure. Never leave the canner unattended.
9. When the cooking time has ended, turn the burner off and allow the pressure to fall slowly on its own. When the pressure is down to zero, remove the weight (or release the pressure valve, if that is how your canner is equipped), take off the canner lid, remove the jars with a hot pad or canning tongs and allow the jars to cool on the counter away from drastic temperature changes. DON’T TRY TO RUSH THIS PROCESS. If you try to remove the canner lid before the pressure returns to zero, your jars may break. The jar lids should start making a plinking sound as they seal, and should all be sealed within about an hour. If any of the jars don’t seal, you can refrigerate the meat to use right away or reprocess it using a new lid.
10. After the jars have sealed and cooled down, wipe the jars clean, remove the rings and place them on your pantry shelves.
The meat is surprisingly delicious prepared this way. The chicken ends up moist and just falls apart the same way as it does after cooking in a crock pot. It’s great used in any recipe calling for shredded chicken like soup, enchiladas, etc. Once you’ve tried canning meat, you’ll see how simple the process is, and you’ll enjoy all the fast and tasty week-night meals you can create. If you want, you can customize the recipe as your canning by adding peppers, onion or celery to the ground beef…or even a tomato base to make jars of sloppy joe that are ready to go!