Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bottling Meats

I can't think of a better thing than canned meat in my food storage. Recently at Girl's Camp, we took bottled chicken to add to our Hawaiian Haystacks for dinner. Everyone commented on how yummy the meat was. I told them that we use our bottled meats at least 2 times per week! I buy the meat when it is at rock bottom prices (chicken breast .99-$1.49 per pound; pork .99 cents/pound; beef steak at $1.99-$2.49/pound; lean ground beef $1.49/pound) and I buy 50-100 pounds of it at a time. It makes for a long day of canning (I usually have 2 or 3 pressure canners going), but well worth it.

(Warning: Canning meats is NOT recommended on glass top stoves. I have a glass top stove and have used my pressure canner multiple times with no problems, but just so you know.... You may want to use a propane camp stove outdoors to bottle meats. The weight of the full pressure canner is very heavy and could crack or break your stove top.)

Having real meat in your food storage makes menu planning much easier. In addition, the ease of just opening a bottle and having that portion of dinner ready is awesome! The shelf life is at least 3 years, but the process is so easy, you may want to rotate your meats more often to be sure the nutritional quality is high. The problem you will run into, is that you will use your canned meats TOO fast! Literally any kind of meat can be bottled: ground beef, beef steak, turkey, pork, chicken, fish, ham, or any kind of wild meat. I have never bottled wild meats, but some friends who have canned venison said it is the best they have had.

Pressure Canners: You must use a pressure canner to bottle meats. Pressure cookers will not safely can meats. Canners come in quart sizes, meaning they hold a certain amount of liquid quarts, but don’t purchase anything smaller than a 15 quart canner, which will usually hold 7 quart jars. I think mine is a 21 quart canner. It holds either 7 quarts, or 20 pints stacked on top of each other. A good pressure canner is worth its weight in gold. It will be well worth the investment.

For used canners, check the internet. If you buy a used canner, be sure to have the gauge tested at your County Extension Center or buy a new gauge. This will ensure that you are cooking at the right pressure and your food will be safe. Some canners have a rubber gasket in the lid (mine does) that will need to be checked each year for cracks. Some people prefer a canner with a metal to metal lid, so they don't have to worry about the gasket. A canner is a great investment even if you’re not doing food storage because canning meat will save time (no need to pull out the frozen meat to thaw) money (shopping the sales) and a good canner will last forever. I have one that is over 40 years old that was given to my sister. Thankfully she is letting me keep it.

Canning Meats: A pint bottle will hold 1 pound of meat, a quart will hold 2 pounds. Be careful about using old bottles (those purchased at yard sales of the D.I.). Only use new jars, or jars that you purchased new. Old jars might crack under the pressure. Invest in some new jars when you first start canning and reuse them over and over. Every now and then the Sunday paper has great coupons to stock up on bottles. I buy the bottles in bulk at the grocery store when they go on sale. With a coupon it is about $5 a case.

In canning meats, you can either use the hot pack, or the raw pack method. With the exception of ground meats, I much prefer the raw pack method. It is faster, and I like the texture better. Put your raw meat and 1/4-3/4 tsp of salt into a clean jar. Jars do not need to be sterilized, but they need to be clean! Fill jars to ½” from the rim. No other spices should be added. With the exception of ground meats, no water is added to the meat. In a small pan, boil the lids for about 2 minutes to soften the rubber seal. Make sure the rim of the jar is completely clean before you put the heated lid and ring on. Tighten the ring down finger tight. Place your tray in the bottom of the canner, and then pour about three inches of water in. Place your jars in the canner on the tray (you can stack pints on top of each other- just make sure that they do not sit directly on one another- try to stagger them). Next, tighten the lid, making sure the top is even, and turn your stove on high. Don’t put the weight on the pressure valve until steam has spouted out of the valve for about 10-12 minutes. This expresses the air out of the jars and the canner. After expressing the air, put the weight onto the pressure valve. For Utah County altitudes, it is 13 pounds. For other altitudes, check your manual. If you have an older canner, there may not be a weight but there will be some kind of pressure release mechanism. Keep this mechanism open to express the canner then close it to begin your pressure. When the gauge gets to the correct pressure, (according to your altitude) begin timing...75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts (Fish is 15 min longer). This is the formula for all meats. You will need to immediately start turning down the heat to keep the pressure stable and continue turning it down over the allotted time. Keep the gauge at the correct pressure. When the pressure drops or increases, a vacuum effect causes the juices in the jar to be pulled out. Do not leave your canner. I have found that using a propane camp stove keeps the pressure more even than my kitchen stove. At the end of the 75 or 90 minutes your heat should be at a very low level and you will then turn the heat completely off. Move the canner off the heat, and just let the pressure go down on its own. When it’s back to zero, release the pressure valve (or remove the weight) take off the lid, put the jars on the counter away from cool drafts and wait for them to seal. You’ll hear a “plink” when the lids seal correctly. If a jar doesn’t seal, you can either refrigerate it for later use or re-bottle it using a new lid. When they are cool, wipe the bottles clean, remove the ring and put them back in the box for storage. Ground meats have a better texture if you brown them first, pack loosely in the jars, cover with broth and process. When canning cooked meats (like leftover Thanksgiving turkey), add a soup broth before canning. Ham makes very little juice, so don’t worry if the juice doesn’t cover all the meat. Don’t bottle spiral cut hams, use a shank cut and don’t add salt. Don’t bottle turkey hams or other processed meats like bologna or hot dogs.

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  1. Thanks for your post!! I bottled pork fork for the first time( raw pack ),with no added liquid & was concerned that when they came out some of the meat was'nt covered with juice. Your post made me feel better about it! I didn't know if it was safe even though the jars are sealed! THANKS!!

  2. Glad it turned out! Sometimes the meats aren't covered with juice- and it is perfectly fine!! It just depends on the type of meat, how much liquid it provides etc. Next time you can add 1-2 TB of broth if you want. When opened, you will not be able to tell a difference in taste. Try the pork in homemade Cafe Rio Salads- Divine! Also, we love to take off the lid, put in microwave to heat up, and serve over mashed potatoes.