The Meaty Pantry: Everything You Need to Know About Canning Meats

All-American-Pressure-Canner-21-qtAlthough most people hear the word “canning” and think “jams and pickles,” the art of home canning extends to all sorts of foodstuffs, including a wide variety of meat and seafood. So if you’re short on freezer space and don’t care for jerky, never fear: canning help is here!

The most popular meats for canning include beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. They aren’t the only meats you may can, though—domestic rabbits and small game also can well, and use the same simple method as chicken and other poultry.

The largest challenge in canning meat lies in the fact that meat is one of the best breeding grounds for bacteria. It’s essential to use high-quality, fresh meat and to handle it quickly and in extremely clean conditions. In addition, you should only can meat that comes from a known source—and that doesn’t mean knowing the name of your grocery store manager! It is essential to know that the source of your meat was raised in healthy conditions and that the meat was handled properly and with the highest regard to sanitation. In most cases, this means growing and slaughtering your own domestic animals, or purchasing meat from a farmer who you know and trust and whose operation you are familiar with.

If you are canning wild game, only use meat from a freshly killed animal that appeared perfectly healthy.

The Importance of Pressure Canning Meat and Seafood

All meat and seafood absolutely must be pressure canned, rather than processed in a boiling water bath. Because it takes only one spoonful from one jar of poisoned food to cause serious illness or death, the pressure canner may be the most important investment you make.

All pressure canners work according to the same principle. The pan has a tight sealing lid with a regulator. When a small amount of water (usually 1 to 3 inches) is heated in the canner, it is converted to steam, which builds up pressure and reaches temperatures substantially higher than boiling. At 10 to 15 pounds of pressure, the temperature is 240° to 250° F. Safety features maintain pressure at reasonable levels and auto-release if the pressure becomes too high.

Pressure Canning Step by Step:

  1. After packing Mason jars and fitting them with lids and screwbands, put the rack in the canner and add 2 to 3 inches of water. Then place jars on the rack. If you like, you may fill the rack before placing it in the canner. Put the lid on the canner and fasten it securely.
  2. Open the petcock or remove the weight. Heat on high until steam flows out.
  3. Continue to heat on high for 10 minutes before closing the petcock or placing the weight on the vent port. During the next 3 to 5 minutes, the pressure will build.
  4. When the dial gauge shows the recommended amount of pressure, or when the petcock begins jiggling or rocking, set the timer for the time specified in your recipe. At high altitudes, increase the pressure ½ pound for each 1,000 feet above sea level.
  5. Maintain a temperature at or just above the specified gauge pressure. Weighted gauges will jiggle 2 or 3 times per minute or rock slowly, depending on the brand. Avoid large variations in temperature, which may cause liquid to be forced from jars,
    jeopardizing the seal.
  6. When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove canner from burner if possible, and let it depressurize. Do not use cold water to speed depressurization and avoid opening the vent port. Let the canner sit 30 minutes if loaded with pints, or 45 minutes with quarts. Some models cool more quickly and have vent locks that indicate when pressure is normal.
  7.  When pressure has returned to normal, remove the weight or open the petcock. Let canner sit for two minutes before unfastening and removing the lid. Keep your face away from the canner to avoid escaping steam.
  8. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a folded towel, allowing at least 1 inch of air to circulate between them.

The Importance of Cooking Meat and Seafood

Canned meat should also always be cooked. Although it has been a popular American practice in recent history to preserve meat by raw canning, it is not possible to guarantee the safety of meats packed raw.

It is always a better choice to freeze, rather than can, raw or undercooked meat. It is absolutely necessary to use a pressure canner when canning any kind of meat.

Process your cans at 10 pounds per square inch at sea level or 15 pounds per square inch at altitude. This process will destroy any and all bacteria and ensure that your meat is safe to eat. To keep your meat from spending too much time in warm air, work with a small amount at a time while storing the rest in the refrigerator.

As with any canned food, inspect your cans for signs of spoilage before you enjoy the contents.

Signs for Spoilage of Meat Products Include:

  • A broken seal
  • An “off” odor
  • Seepage around the seal
  • Small bubbles in the food
  • A spurt of liquid when you open the container
  • Yeasty or cloudy liquid
  • Mold (even the tiniest amount!)

 Tips For Canning Red Meats

Prime cuts of beef, lamb, pork, veal, and large game should be canned in the largest pieces you can fit in your containers. To can these large pieces, follow these steps:

  • Wipe the pieces of raw meat with a clean, damp cloth. Remove any bones or fat that is visible on the surface of the meat.
  • Place the pieces in a large, shallow pan with ½ cup of water.
  • Cook over medium heat, turning often, until pieces are cooked medium well.
  • Pack meat in straight-sided jars. Add boiling liquid (meat stock or vegetable stock are good choices) until jar is full, leaving an inch of headroom.
  • Process at 10 pounds per square inch at 240° F. Pints should be processed for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.

Most organ meats do not can well, with the exception of tongue. To can tongue, soak the meat in cold water for 4-6 hours, scrubbing the tongue and changing the water every two hours. Boil the tongues in a large pot. Skim off the foam that initially rises to the top, then lightly salt the water and continue to cook until the tongue is done medium well. Remove from water, rinse with cool water, then remove and skin or other inedible parts. Pack as for other pieces of meat.

Tips For Canning Poultry

Poultry is canned slightly differently from the red meats listed above. The process for canning poultry includes chicken, turkey, goose, and duck, as well as domestic rabbits, wild birds, and other small game. Unlike with red meat, you may leave the skin on. Pack raw pieces into a large pan, cover with chicken or vegetable stock, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until meat is medium-well done. Pack meat with broth as for red meat, above.

You may also can the giblets of your poultry. If you have enough liver to process and pack separately from your other giblets, do so. Use canned giblets in meat sauces, gravies, or meat pies. To pack gizzards and hearts, clean and trim off any gristle or fat. Cut gizzards and large hearts in half. Boil in broth until done medium well. To pack livers, first remove any fat and cut away the gall sac and any connecting tissue between the lobes. Cook over medium heat in broth until done medium well—they will cook much more quickly than other giblets, so watch them closely.

Tips For Canning Seafood

It is also possible to can many kinds of seafood. Most fish and shellfish have very low acidity, which means it is essential to only can them with a properly used pressure canner, just as with other types of meat. Freshness is also of the essence when canning seafood, as even a couple hours at room temperature will turn fish unfit to can.

Salmon, lake trout, whitefish, mackerel, mullet, and shad can both be raw-packed, although they should be brined prior to canning. To make a brine, dissolve ¾ cup of pickling salt in a gallon of cold water. Immerse your pieces of fish in the brine, weighing them down if necessary, for one full hour. Drain the pieces but do not rinse them. Other fish and shellfish (aside from clams) should be precooked to medium well before being packed. ½ pint jars should be processed at 10 pounds and 240°F for 70 minutes.

Clams are a special case. Clams should be purchased (or dug) fresh and alive. Once brought home, hold your clams in clean, cool saltwater (not sea water!) made from ¼ cup pickling salt to 1 gallon of water for 24 hours, then steamed open, removed from their shells, and acid blanched in a boiling solution of 2 teaspoons of citric acid powder dissolved in a gallon of water for 2 minutes. Pack and process steamed and acid blanched clams in ½ pint jars at 10 pounds and 240°F for 60 minutes.

A Final Note

When proper procedure and safety precautions are followed, canning meats is an efficient, productive, and delicious way to store food for the future. So be safe, follow directions, and above all, enjoy your adventures in canning!

Read our detailed review on the All American Pressure Canner Cooker. We consider it to be the best on the market and it is manufactured in the US.

Home Canning Basics – All American Pressure Canner Cooker

Home canning is a popular method for preserving foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. It allows you to take advantage of the bountiful crops you experience in spring and summer from your home garden, and save them for the colder months when supply is considerably diminished.

But there are tricks and tips you need to know about home canning which can save you a lot of time and effort, and will save you from the risks of losing your valuable preserves through spoilage.

One of the major causes of concern in any food preservation technique is to ensure that the integrity of the food is maintained for as long as possible in the safest possible way.

Although you need to be careful and follow some basic safety rules, the actual process of home canning is quite straightforward. As you are going to be heat processing all food, it is important to make sure that the correct heating standards are maintained.

Here are some basic steps:

  • All food should be placed in jars that have airtight seals, preferably two-piece metal lids.
  • Choose an appropriate canner such as the highly recommended All American Pressure Canner Cooker, to heat the jars to the temperature stipulated in the recipe.
  • Choose the correct size jar appropriate to the food you are processing, and be careful to maintain space inside the jar appropriate to the expected expansion rate.
  • Make sure that the heat is maintained for the period of time specified in the recipe. This will ensure that no bacteria or other microorganisms and enzymes will spoil your food.
  • Allow the jars to cool slowly. This will allow the lids to form a strong vacuum seal.

The principle behind this process is that the contents will expand as the jar is heated. This causes pressure changes to take place inside the jars so that air is expelled from them. As the jars cool, the difference in outside and inside pressures causes the lid to clamp down tightly to form a vacuum seal.

The All American Pressure Canner

It is vital to have a good quality canner such as the All American Pressure Canner,  that will maintain temperatures and will heat the contents at a consistent temperature, whilst at the same time ensuring that the vacuum sealing method outlined above can take place as efficiently as possible.

High acid foods and low acid foods require different processes however, and for these you will need either a boiling water canner or a pressure canner respectively.

The bottom line is that you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure that the equipment is clean and properly assembled before use.

Read our detailed review on the All American Pressure Canner Cooker.

Canning Before the All American Home Canner/ Pressure Cooker was Available

Long before the advent of the All American Pressure Cooker Canner, preserving food was a necessary task.  And the methods used in the past were often tedious.

The history of home canning can quite easily be traced to the early 1800s. But there are plenty of suggestions that man’s attempt to preserve food started well before that. The Egyptians used to place sealed jars containing food in the Pharaohs tomb for his use in the afterlife. The Romans certainly used sealed earthenware containers and buried them for future use. Although these early attempts were hardly successful that evidence of man’s obsession with retaining the bounties of a current harvest for the future.

It is also said that Napoleon authorized the use of sealed glass jars to preserve food for his troops during long campaigns.

As far as what we would currently term canning, the inventor of the Mason jar, John L Mason, first introduced his famous threaded jars in 1858. These jars became the central focus around which our modern approach to home canning developed.

In the early days, fruit was the most commonly preserved item. American women pioneered the increasing use of fruit preservation and extended it to vegetables. The idea was that the home orchard’s produce could be more completely harvested in that all excess fruit and vegetables could be preserved for use during the winter months when fresh produce became unavailable.

As sugar became less expensive and wood-burning stoves became a common household implement, preservation methods developed into a kitchen-based activity which all families could utilize.

The process involved placing the jars in a large bath like, water filled container on top of the wood-burning stove. The food was placed in the jars and went through a cooking process before being filled with hot liquids, usually sugar-based syrup in the case of fruit, to seal the food in, and then applying a screw top lid.

The jars had to be regularly inspected to ensure that there was no spoilage. From all reports, the food was often overcooked but still quite edible. Nevertheless, it fitted the bill for the times, and the cost of food purchases were reduced considerably. Salt and sugar were the main preservative elements of the canning process, so sauces and pickles were favorite products.

There were many other products apart from the Mason jars however. Over the years many manufacturers entered the market and provided kits to be used for home canning. Atlas jars and Bell jars were popular as were the lightning jars manufactured with a metal clamp and a glass lid.

Even if those products are no longer used in today’s home canning industry they are still popular collector’s items and can be found at second-hand shops around the country.

Thank goodness the All American Pressure Cooker Canner has made preserving your excess produce a simple task. Read our review on the All American Presser Canner and in no time at all you will have a pantry stocked full of  home preserved great tasting food  even when it is normally out of season.

Pressure Cookers – A Healthy Way to Cook

set-of-3-pressure-cookersI remember when I was just a little kid and my mother would cook up something in the pressure cooker. In those days, pressure cookers were a dangerous thing. We were warned to keep back at all times while it stood hissing away on the stove almost like some deranged snake ready to pounce.

As I got older and I started to help mom I was often given control of the pressure cooker. I still remember taking the heavy beast from the stove over to the sink all the time holding my head back as far as possible just in case it exploded in my face. I would then run cold water over the top of it until the hissing would finally stop. You could usually go and have a cup of tea while this was happening as it sometimes took up to 5 minutes or more for the pressure to finally be released so we could remove the lid.

Fortunately these days, with multiple safety valves and locking mechanisms, pressure cookers are a lot safer. And you don’t need to worry about breaking water restrictions as modern pressure cookers don’t require running water to release the pressure.

Pressure cookers are actually quite a healthy way to cook. Because the food cooks so quickly and very little liquid is used, minerals and vitamins in the food are not boiled away and lost. This makes pressure cooking much healthier than conventional cooking. This also means that the food retains maximum flavor.

What Can I Cook In It?

Just about anything! It is ideal for dishes that need long cooking such as soups, stews, beans and grains. Brown meats and onions prior to pressure cooking. It’s also great for al dente vegetables in just two minutes.

You can adapt normal recipes for the pressure cooker. Just ensure that you have a minimum of two cups of water to create the necessary steam.

Life Is Slower In The Mountains!

For people living at sea level, water usually boils at 211 degrees. Using a pressure cooker at a high altitude needs more time for the water to heat up. As a general rule, if you live over 3,500 feet above sea level, you should increase the cooking time by 10%.

What are the benefits to pressure cooking?

set-of-3-pressure-cookersFood can cook up to 70% faster in a pressure cooker. This is such a help for busy or working mothers (and fathers!). Simply put the food in the pot and by the time you’ve relaxed with a cup of tea, dinner is ready!

As the food cooks so quickly, less gas or electricity is used and can save you money on your utility bills.

Your kitchen won’t steam up and get uncomfortably hot as all the steam stays in the pot!

The kitchen stays cleaner as there are no splashes and nothing ever boils over on the stove top.

Read more about pressure cookers here…