This article was originally published by Bethany Hayes on www.morningchores.com
The first time that I canned meat, I was nervous; I won’t lie to you. Pressure canning meat feels intimidating, and you don’t want to do it wrong. No one wants to make their family sick, and images of slimy canned meat from the store might dance in your mind when you think about it.
My fear might have stemmed from the cans of Spam that my parents tried to convince me to eat as a child. I might be irrational, but I’m not entirely sure that’s real meat. So, canning meat at home seemed like a hard and nasty task with little reward.
After a few tries, I learned that pressure canning meat at home wasn’t so bad, and it’s a skill that all homesteaders need to have. To be honest, it’s not any harder than canning vegetables, and the end product is delightful.
Pressure Canning Meat: Why It’s an Important Skill
If you’re a homesteader who’s skeptical about needing to learn how to pressure can meat, trust me; you need to figure it out. I’ve found a few reasons why it’s a skill that you need to have.
1. It Makes Dinner Time Convenient
Do you find dinner time hectic with the kids coming home from school? Having cans of meat make it easier to prepare dinner. You can dump out the cans and eliminate the whole cooking process. Whether you want ground beef for tacos or cubed meat for a stew, it can be ready in a flash.
2. It Reduces Freezer Dependency
I have to tell you that I’m not a fan of being freezer dependent. I live in an area that experiences many losses of power, and we once lost an entire stock of meat in my freezer. Our family still stores meat in my freezer, but it’s nice to have jars of shelf-stable meat at all times.
3. It Helps You to Be Prepared
If you find being prepared important, then having cans of meat is essential. You aren’t stuck eating peanut butter and crackers if you don’t have power. In long-term SHTF scenarios, you’ll still have your vital protein source.
4. You Can Take Advantage of Sales
Do you ever see a bunch of meat on sale or marked down at the store? Buy it! Then, take it home and can it for future dinners.
One time, I purchased several dozen pounds of marked down organic, grass-fed ground beef for a steal. I was insanely happy, and I was able to can it and eat it for months. It saved us money!
Discover the golden days’ practice for getting all you can eat food without buying from the supermarket!
5. The Meat Tastes Good
I was prejudice against canned meat from childhood experiences. Now I know that home-canned meat tastes delicious. It’s juicy, tender, and seasoned how you like it.
An Important Warning – Don’t Ignore This!
Before we get into the steps of canning meat, I have to tell you something fundamental.
You must always use a pressure canner when you can meat. No exceptions. There is never a time to use a water bath canner with meat. No matter what grandma tells you, she is wrong.
Now that we got that into the open let me tell you why. Meat is a low-acid food, just like green beans, corn, and potatoes. A boiling water canner will never be able to reach the temperatures needed to make the meat safe for storage. Ever.
I don’t care if you think that you have some magical stove. You don’t, and it’s not worth the risk of introducing botulism to your family.
Pressure canning SEEMS scary, probably because you’ve heard stories of them blowing up. New pressure canners are safe, and if you follow directions, everything will be fine.
Hot Pack vs. Raw Pack Pressure Canning Methods
The most significant decision that you have to make is to figure out if you want to use a hot pack or raw pack method. Hot packing is a bit more work because you need to brown or precook the meat first. Raw pack doesn’t require that, as you might guess.
No matter which method you choose, the processing time is the same, and you’ll have fully cooked meat when you open the jar. So, let’s take a detailed look at both methods so that you can decide which one works for you.
Hot Pack Method
- This method allows you to fit more into the jar because the meat already shrank when you precooked it.
- You can sear or brown the meat, imparting the flavor or the caramelization on the surface of the meat that you want.
- Hot packing doesn’t work with all meat because it can make delicate meats, such as chicken, stringy and unappealing.
- You have to hot pack any type of ground meat. That can be either saute the ground meat first or cook patties first. You don’t need to cook the ground meat thoroughly, but you do need to saute it first. Some people even make meatballs!
Raw Pack Method
- This method requires less prep time to get ready to can.
- The meat will shrink while processing, so your jars might look a bit empty.
- The excess fat can come to the top of the jar, which gives it an unsightly look. That fat can go rancid over time.
- These jars can be harder to clean afterward, for some reason!
- You have to fill jars with raw meat loosely. Never tightly pack the jars!
Word of the day: Prepare! And do it the old fashion way, like our fore-fathers did it and succeed long before us, because what lies ahead of us will require all the help we can get. Watch this video and learn the 3 skills that ensured our ancestors survival in hard times of famine and war.
6 Tips for Pressure Canning Meat
You want to do it correct the first time, so let’s cover some tips that you need to remember.
- Always pick high-quality, chilled meat to can.
- Remove as much of the excess fat as possible. The fat rises to the top of the jar, and while it’s safe, it doesn’t always look great.
- Soak strong-flavored wild meats for 1 hour in brine water that has one tablespoon of salt per quart.
- Make sure you remove any large bones in the meat.
- You can form ground meat into patties or meatballs if you want. However, you can’t use bread crumbs, flour, eggs, or rice as fillers. It needs just to be patties or balls of meat.
- Start with tried and trusted recipes. Ball offers dozens of recipes for canning meat in their recipe books. The pressure canner that you purchase should come with a manual with dozens of recipes to try as well.
How Much Meat to Put in the Jars
To safely pressure can meat, you have to fill the jars correctly. The general rule of thumb is that you can put one pound of meat per one US pint jar, but it depends on how small or large you cut the pieces of meat. Cutting the meat into large chunks and packing loosely means that you’ll get less in each jar.
The rule stands for ground meat as well. So, plan to can about one pound per a single pint jar.
General Processing Time
The recommended processing times for meat can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and they were reviewed in 2015 for accuracy.
Recommended Processing Times for Strips, Cubes, or Chunks of Meat
You can find these times here.
|Style of Pack
|Hot Raw Pack
Recommended Processing Times for Ground or Chopped Meat
These times can be found here, and these work whether you form the ground meat into patties or meatballs or not.
|Style of Pack
How to Can Meat – An Example
I’m going to take you through an example of how I would can cubed meat. Let’s get started!
What You Need
- Beef, Elk, Pork, or Venison
- Canning Jars, Lids, and Rings
- Pressure Canner
- Stock Pot
- Metal Spoon
The Steps to Pressure Can Meat
- First, trim off any excess fat and gristle. I’ve found that doing this when the meat is half-frozen works best, but it’s an important step. Plus, who likes gristle? Not me.
- Slice the meat into the strips against the grain. Then, cut them into cubes roughly 1-inch long. You don’t have to measure the cubes – eyeball it the best you can. Try to make them all even.
- Put all of the cubes into a stockpot and brown the sides evenly. Now is a good time to season them, if you want. Remember, you’re just browning the meat. You don’t have to cook the cubes all the way through.
- Now, put the browned meat cubes into clean glass jars. Leave 1-inch of headspace.
- If you’re using quart jars, add one teaspoon of salt per jar. For pint jars, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per jar.
- Then, pour water into the stockpot that you used to brown the meat and bring it to a boil. The amount of water you need depends on how many jars of meat you’re canning, but you need enough to fill all of the jars. Stir and scrape up those bits of meat and flavoring on the bottom!
- Now, ladle the boiling liquid into the jars, and be sure to leave the 1-inch headspace.
- Clean off the rims, put on the lids and rings.
- Place inside of the pressure canner, and lock on the lid.
An Important Note to Remember
The processing time doesn’t start counting until you reach the correct pressure needed. Don’t include the time that it took to build up to correct pressure. You have to keep the pressure consistent, so be prepared to increase and lower the heat on your stove as needed throughout the process.
Once the 75 or 90 minute passes, turn the cooker off and let the pressure naturally decrease. When the canner unlocks itself, you can open it, but be sure to open the lid away from your face!
Pressure canning meat doesn’t have to be scary. With the right equipment and directions, you can have jars of ready-to-go meat for dinner each night. Always follow the instructions and remember that you have to use a pressure canner to properly can meat!