Though there are many different methods of preparing meat for long-term storage, without a doubt, canning it is the easiest way to store large quantities of it in a manner that gives you an almost eternal shelf life.
Canning meat off grid is pretty much the same as if you do it in the modern fashion; as a matter of fact, if you have solar power, you can probably use the same methods that everybody else does.
It used to be considered safe to simply can your meat in boiling water baths but that’s not the case anymore. If you’re near sea-level where the boiling point of water is the highest, you MAY be OK to can your meat using the water bath method as long as you keep it at a hard boil for at least three hours. Even then, there’s no assurance that it will be safe to eat though our older generations did it and seemed to fair ok.
The recommended method of canning meat (and low-acid vegetables) is to use a pressure canner. This is because of the high risk of botulism. Botulism is a type of food poisoning that can quite literally kill you if you get it.
It affects your central nervous system and causes facial and/or body paralysis, difficulty breathing and swallowing and other not-so-pleasant reactions. Needless to say, if you can’t breathe, you’re going to be in a bit of trouble.
Botulism is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria is extremely difficult to kill with the average heat that is used in water bath canning and can live without oxygen in your jars. As a matter of fact, it produces oxygen, which is why you should throw out any canned foods that have bulging lids or bubbles or foam on the top or up the sides when you look at the jar.
We’ve gotten a bit astray, but I wanted to really drive home why it’s critical to can your meat using a pressure canner instead of using a water bath. Now we can proceed with the actual methods of canning meat off-grid.
Materials Needed for Canning Meat
In order to can any type of food, including meat, you’re going to need glass jars, lids and rings. The problem that many off-grid people will face in the event of a disaster is that the jars and rings can be reused but the lids can’t. Or at least MOST of them can’t.
There are now a couple of companies that make lids that can be reused almost endlessly, so even if they cost a bit more, they’ll pay for themselves many times over. The reusable lids that I’ve used are Tattler brand. The second good thing about them is that they’re BPA-free.
When using these lids though, there are a couple of differences between them and the standard lids that you’re probably used to. When you put the lids and rings on the jar, you need to unscrew the lids a quarter of a turn in order to allow the hot air to escape while the contents are processing. Once the jars of food are processed, remove them from the canner. As soon as you do this, tighten the rings back down so that the rubber can seal correctly as the food cools.
When it comes to reusing your jars, always make sure that you thoroughly clean them and inspect them for any flaws. If there is even the slightest chip anywhere, especially along the mouth, then use it to store your dry goods or other items that don’t require a seal.
You’ll also need a pressure canner. The good thing about a pressure canner is that you can use it as a water bath canner for all of your fruits and veggies that aren’t low acid.
Canning without a Stove
This is where it’s going to get a bit tricky. If you have an old-fashioned wood-burning cook stove then you’re in a much better position to can foods, especially if you’re pressure-canning them. Remember one thing though – if you’re without power, that means that you’re without air conditioning so canning inside is going to turn your house into an oven in the middle of the summer.
Though many people say that pressure canning over an open fire is impossible, it’s really not. That’s not to say it’s easy because it’s not, but it IS possible. You’re going to need A LOT of wood because you’re going to need to keep your fire hot enough to sustain the pressure inside of the canner.
If the water quits boiling for even a bit, you’ve already lost because the meat needs to stay under pressure for the amount of time necessary (it will vary based on the size of your jars) in order to kill botulinum bacteria.
Here’s how I’ve seen my mom do it (she’s really a homesteading gal!). She built her own outdoor grill using cinder blocks. Her canning side was surrounded by three sides by cinder blocks and her grate was placed at the top of two blocks, so that the canner was pretty close to the fire.
You want to start with a really hot fire; your canner will pressurize much faster that way. Also, have a big supply of wood handy; remember that if you’re canning multiple batches, this is going to turn into an all-day (or even all week) job. Green beans need to process under pressure for about 25 minutes if you’re using quart jars. Quart jars of meat needs 90 minutes of processing!
Your canner can only hold so many jars, so if you’re doing multiple batches, prepare to have enough wood to keep that fire hot for several hours. You’re going to have to watch your fire closely. You want it hot enough to bring the pot to pressure but not so hot that you blow it up!
Another good tip that I read from somebody else was that if you’re sterilizing your jars outside, put a lid over the pot; otherwise ashes will get in the water. The last thing that you want to do is add extra work to an already excruciatingly long process!
Be extremely careful when you’re canning over an open fire. It may be best to start with some water bath canning so that you can get a feel for how much wood it takes to keep the water boiling but not overflowing, etc. Then after you get a better feel for the process, move up to pressure canning.
Just because you don’t have electricity doesn’t mean that you’re unable to can your foods. Oh, and one final tip that my mom taught me when I was a kid and we were camping: if you put dish soap on the outside of your pots when you use them over an open flame, the black soot will come off much easier! Don’t you just love tips from mom?
How To Preserve Meat
In a SHTF event, chances are that you will not be able to rely on your fridge to preserve your food as usual. People can get overtly reliant on fridges to store their food and this can be a problem.
If you don’t have access to a fridge anymore, what will you do? How will you preserve your meat for later use? People have been using other methods to preserve their food for centuries. This knowledge can come in real useful.
You can start by taking a look in your kitchen. Examine how much food you have and think how much of it would spoil without refrigeration.
Meat would be the first one to go once you lose electricity, but spoiling can be prevented using old-fashioned techniques. Methods such as smoking and curing are just two examples used for a long time, and are efficient when it comes to keeping meat from spoiling.
First, you need to decide on a place where you will store your meat. Ideally, you will want to do it in the coldest area available. Good examples are the attic, a storage shed, a shelter etc. Use a thermometer to check the temperature in each place and decide on the best one.
How to Cure Meat
Curing is a technique which basically involves preserving the meat in salt. This was one of the most common ways of keeping meat fresh in the days before refrigeration. Some still use it today, but now it is more about enhancing the flavor of the meat, not about preserving it.
Meat spoils because it is a good place for bacteria to thrive in. Bacteria need water, and there is a lot of water content in the meat, especially the muscle fibers. This is solved by introducing salt. It will expel a lot of the water from the meat, and creates an environment where bacteria cannot develop and multiply.
Besides the meat, you will also need a mixture of curing salt and brown sugar. For example, half a pound of salt mixed with a quarter cup of sugar should be enough for ten to twelve pounds of meat.
The sugar is necessary in order to counterbalance all of the salt, and will also give the meat a distinct flavor. If you like, other sweet products can be used such as honey or maple syrup.
You can also add your favorite herbs and spices if you want, they will also give your meat a unique aroma.
There is another ingredient which, ideally, should be included: sodium nitrite. It is particularly effective at fighting off botulism – a very bad bacterium which you do not want anywhere near your meat. At the same time, high levels of nitrite can also be toxic, and you need to take special care with this step.
There are two safe ways for you to add sodium nitrite.
- Using green leafy vegetables such as celery, spinach and lettuce. They all naturally contain sodium nitrite. You can add juice or extract and you will get the sodium nitrite you need.
- Adding pink salt. Also known as Prague Powder #1, this salt already contains a mixture of regular table salt and sodium nitrite in the appropriate composition.
Once you have the necessary ingredients, start cutting the meat into slabs. Pork is commonly used, but you can also use beef or fish. Take a slab and cover it heavily in the salt mixture. Do this with the rest of the meat. After this place it in jars or crocks for storage. Make sure that the meat slabs are tightly packed together.
Take them to your storage destination of choice. Make sure that the temperature is below 38 degrees Fahrenheit, but that it is well above freezing. 36 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
After about a month of storage, take the meat out. Take each slab and wrap it in paper or plastic. Either is fine as long as it is moisture-proof. This meat is now ready to be stored and consumed whenever you need it.
How to Brine Meat
The process described above is referred to as dry curing, but there is also a method for wet curing, also known as brining. This technique involves you keeping the meat submerged in a salty solution.
The steps are similar: the meat needs to be cut the same way and placed in jars or crocks. Wash the meat and sterilize the jars before you do.
Now you need to make the salt water. Adding about a pound of salt and half a cup of sugar to three quarts of water should do. Feel free to mix in other ingredients such as herbs and spices. Repeat this process until you have enough water for all of the jars. Fill each one up.
Make sure that the meat is completely submerged. If you are having problems, place a weight on top. Take the meat to your storage area.
Unlike dry curing, the meat will need your attention on a weekly basis. Each week you will have to take the meat out of the jars, stir the brine well and then place it back. After four weeks of repeating this process, your meat is ready. If you find the brine to be getting too thick, you will need to replace it with a fresh batch.
How to Smoke Meat
Smoke has the same effect as salt of keeping away bacteria from your meat. It also gives it a very tasty flavor which is why it is still used today.
If you know of a smokehouse near you, you can take it there, you will save time. If not, you can do the process yourself, but you will need a smoker. The good news is that they are available in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and use various fuels such as propane or charcoal. You can also modify grills or ovens to work as smokers, but the use of a regular smoker for this purpose is recommended.
This method is similar to grilling the meat and will generate a lot of smoke, so it needs to be done outdoors. However, grilling is a quick cooking process that uses high heat, while smoking takes much longer and uses indirect heat at low temperatures. The temperature should be anywhere between 150 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
This process is known as hard smoking and it is a way of cooking your meat in a way that will not require refrigeration. The end product will look similar to jerky.
Cold smoking is also available, and uses much lower temperatures below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This method is only used for flavoring the meat rather than actually cooking it.
There you have it: three ways to prepare and preserve your meat for long periods of time.
Our grandfathers had more knowledge than any of us today and thrived even when modern conveniences were not available. They were able to produce and store their food for long periods of time. The Lost Ways is the most comprehensive book available. All the knowledge our grandfathers had, in one place.Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find in the book:
Table Of Contents:
Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to Stronger Stuff
Ginger Beer: Making Soda the Old Fashioned Way
How North American Indians and Early Pioneers Made Pemmican
Wild West Guns for SHTF and a Guide to Rolling Your Own Ammo
How Our Forefathers Built Their Sawmills, Grain Mills,and Stamping Mills
How Our Ancestors Made Herbal Poultice to Heal Their Wounds
What Our Ancestors Were Foraging For? or How to Wildcraft Your Table
How North California Native Americans Built Their Semi-subterranean Roundhouses
Our Ancestors’Guide to Root Cellars
Good Old Fashioned Cooking on an Open Flame
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Preserve Water
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Take Care of Our Hygiene When There Isn’t Anything to Buy
How and Why I Prefer to Make Soap with Modern Ingredients
Temporarily Installing a Wood-Burning Stove during Emergencies
Making Traditional and Survival Bark Bread…….
Trapping in Winter for Beaver and Muskrat Just like Our Forefathers Did
How to Make a Smokehouse and Smoke Fish
Survival Lessons From The Donner Party
Get your paperback copy HERE
This article has been written by Theresa Crouse & Bella Scotton for Survivopedia.