Canning meat is no different than any other food you process. In fact, it may even be the easiest food to can, even though it takes a longer processing time. You may be timid about canning meats, and while care should certainly be taken in the processing of any food item, meat is no more difficult than any item you’d put into the pressure canner.
The flavor and texture of the meat you can is in direct proportion to the breed of animal, the method of slaughtering, and the type of aging process employed. For instance, if you hunt your own game, you should ask your county extension agent or a reliable friend in the meat processing industry about aging and chilling your meat before canning.
Your meat should be free of excessive fat, gristle, and bruising, as these will affect the flavor of the finished product. Game that has a strong flavor should be soaked in a mild salt-water solution before canning. Be careful with poultry and pork—these meats tend to absorb salt, and it can make them unbearable to eat. If your meat has a particularly gamey taste, you can process the meat with tomato juice.
Poultry and Rabbit
Poultry that is one-to-two years of age is the best meat for canning. Again, this meat absorbs salt easily, so refrain from soaking any wild poultry (such as turkey) in a salt-water solution. Chill the meat for about six to twelve hours before processing.
You can process your chicken in a variety of ways. When my children were younger, I’d process 4-ounce jars of deboned white chicken meat. They could take these in a lunch box with some whole wheat crackers, a cheese stick, and a fruit or fruit bar of some type, and have a delicious, healthy school lunch. Larger half-pint jars can be used to can chicken for making chicken salad. You can process whole chicken pieces such as legs and thighs in a quart jar for use in dishes like chicken pot pie. It’s quick and easy to open up a jar of chicken, quickly debone it and dump it into pan, and then add the rest of the ingredients for whatever dish you want.
To can quart jars of whole chicken pieces, simply cut the chicken at the joints, leaving the bone and skin intact. Pack these raw pieces tightly into quart jars, leaving an inch of headspace. If you want, you can add a teaspoon of salt to the quart jars, but it’s not necessary to the canning process. Personally, I don’t usually try to can turkey legs, but I have processed the thighs and breast meat with no problem. For boneless chicken, pack your jars tightly with meat leaving one inch of head space, and add salt if desired. There’s no need to add liquid as the meat will produce its own broth as it processes.
Because rabbit meat is so similar to poultry, you can use the same processing methods and times for rabbit as you do for poultry.
The recommended processing times for boneless chicken or rabbit in a dial-gauge canner, either raw or hot packed, is 75 minutes for pint jars and 90 minutes for quarts. Use the following poundages depending on your altitude:
0 – 2,000 FT: 11 lbs
2,001 – 4,000 FT: 12 lbs
4,001 – 6,000 FT: 13 lbs
6,001 – 8,000 FT: 14 lbs
The recommended processing times for bone-in chicken or rabbit in a dial-gauge canner, either raw or hot packed, is 65 minutes for pints and 75 minutes for quarts. Increase your poundage for higher altitudes the same as above.
The same time for processing applies to weighted-gauge canners as stated above with dial-gauge canners. However, set your weighted gauge at 10 lbs of pressure for all altitudes up to 1,000 Ft, and 15 lbs of pressure for altitudes above 1,000 ft.
Once your jars have processed, allow your canner to cool down normally. Don’t force depressurization at all. You’ll want to allow your jars to cool down in a spot out of the way of sudden changes of temperature. Don’t sit them underneath an air conditioner register, for example. Once the jars have sealed, you’ll need to wipe them down well before putting them up.
We’ll be bringing you the next article in this series of home canning methods—Canning 204: Beef, Venison, and Pork—soon.