If you have ever eaten canned tuna or canned roast beef, then you know that pressure canning meat is a quick and easy way to get a little protein in your diet. It stores well, and to use it all you need is a can opener. For my household, commercially canned meats play a part in my disaster plan, I have a couple can organizers full of tuna, canned roast beef, and corned beef hash. But from both a sustainable and an economical standpoint, there are some drawbacks. With the equipment available to me I cannot preserve meat in metal jars, and the cost is an issue, so I don’t eat canned meats very often.
However, since I raise my own chickens and rabbits, as well as purchase meat in bulk from a local farmer (generally ¼ of a steer at a time) I have plenty of meat to eat. The problem is storing it, freezing is useful, but only for limited periods of time, and only when electricity is available.
To bridge the gap between commercially canned, and home frozen meat, I began pressure canning meat at home. It’s a simple, easy process, and as long as you are aware of the hygienic needs of the process, and follow the safety precautions it is relatively safe.
You MUST use a pressure canner to can meat, since it is a low acid food. It’s also important to use leaner cuts of meat, as the fat can not only go rancid, but also may ruin your can’s seal. You must keep a clean workstation, and sterilize your tools before you start canning, and lastly, you must follow a reputable recipe. Mine come from either the USDA, or the makers of my canning jars (namely the Ball Blue Book: The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing).
When canning meat you can either hot or cold pack the meat.
In the hot pack method, you cook the meat until it is almost done, and then cover the meat chunks with hot stock, broth, or gravy. The heat and pressure from the canning process turns this into a nice roast beef type texture.
In the cold pack method raw meat cubes are placed inside the jar and no additional water is added. The canning process then cooks the meat without loosing the cube shape, this makes meat that is perfect for soups or stews.
Do not skimp on processing times, please read your instruction manual for your canner if you have not used a pressure canner before. If the dial dips below the stated pressure you need to restart the clock. This is the only way to make sure you have held the meat at a high enough temperature long enough to kill any bacteria spores.
Processing times are at 10 pounds of pressure and are determined by can size as follows:
½ int jars require 45 minutes of processing time
Pint jars require 75 minutes of processing time
Quart jars require 90 minutes of processing time
* Some seafood requires higher processing times, so consult a recipe specifically for the type of seafood your canning to be safe.
How to Pressure Can Meat
- Pressure canner (that has been calibrated within the last year.
- Wide mouth jars (you can use small mouth jars and be safe, but it’s a devil of a time removing the meat from a small mouth jar)
- Rings and NEW seals
- Rubber spatula
- Canning tongs
- Canning magnet
- Clean cloths and a towel
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Stock pot
- Meat cut into strips, cubes, or chunks so that it can fit into the jar
- Cut meat and prepare to your specifications (i.e. Browned if for a hot pack)
- Lay down a towel on your counter and carefully remove a hot jar from your water with your canning tongs, draining the water.
- Pack meat into the jars so there is a 1 inch headspace.
- Add a little bit of water to fill in the air space (if hot packing).
- Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to “burp” the jar of air by sliding it down the sides and pressing gently.
- Don’t use a metal utensil.
- When you’re packing cold meat in a hot jar it can crack if you tap it with metal!
- Use the threads on the jar to judge the 1 inch headspace mark.
- Add a little more water if you need to fill to inch mark on a hot pack.
- Add one tsp of salt to each jar.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean soft cloth. This step is crucial to a good seal
- Assemble the two piece lids and tighten them medium tight.
- Fill your canner with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer.
- Place jars inside your pressure canner being careful not to hit the jars together as much as possible.
- When all the jars are in the canner, look at the water level. About half way up the jar is about right.
- Lock the lid down on the canner.
- Watch the vent pipe. When steam has escaped evenly and consistently for 10 minutes, place the weight over the vent pipe.
- Watch the gauge and adjust the heat on your canner until it remains at the recommended poundage.
- When your canner has reached the recommended poundage, you may begin to time the processing.
- 75 minutes for pints
- 90 minutes for quarts
- When the processing time is up, turn off the heat on your stove.
- Wait until the gauge has returned to zero before touching canner.
- After the gauge returns to zero, tap the weight on the vent pipe. If it “hisses”, give it some more time to cool. If you hear nothing, remove it and wait another 5 minutes. Carefully unlock the lid and remove it towards you so as not to burn yourself from any steam.
- You will see that some broth created from cooking the meat has escaped. This is normal. It escapes with the steam during the cooking process.
- When you remove your jars with your canning tongs, be sure to set them down on a towel in a place where they can cool preferably over night.
- If you listen, over the next hour you will hear the “pings” from the cooling jar pulling down on the center button of the lid.
- After your jars have cooled completely, wipe them down with a hot, damp cloth.
- You may also remove the rings now if you choose.
- Now you can mark the tops of the jars with the date that you canned it. I use a sharpie or a permanent marker. I started using stick on labels, but they are a pain when you reuse jars,
- Store your canned meat in a place in your house that has a stable temperature.
- When serving home canned meat, the USDA recommends that it is heated thoroughly for 15-20m.