Canning is the perfect way to preserve food for later use without the addition of chemicals and additives found in commercially preserved foods. While many people will freeze meat in order to preserve it for later use, not many have considered the convenience of canning meat. Canned meat can last for many years when it has been properly handled and stored, giving it a longer shelf life than frozen meat.
Warning: Improper canning techniques can lead to foodborne botulism. Always use proper canning techniques. Always use the right equipment for the kind of food being canned. If a container of food has any signs of contamination, throw it out.
Never taste food to determine if it tastes okay to eat. Do not taste food that is discolored, moldy, or smells bad. Do not taste food from cans that are leaking, have bulges, are swollen, look damaged, cracked, or abnormal.
Do not taste food from a can or jar that spurted liquid or foam when it was opened.
General Canning Guidelines
Nearly any kind of meat can be canned, but be sure you choose cuts and preparations that you enjoy as well as high-quality meats. As with all things, the higher the quality of your meat, the better your canned product will be. Lean meats, or meat with the fat trimmed, will be ideal for canning.
When preparing meats for canning, never use any canning method but pressure cooking and for the times recommended. Pressure canning is the only method recommended for canning all meats, fish, and seafood. Never use boiling water canners for canning meat because this process will not protect against botulism.
Keep your meats cool while you prepare them (unless you are canning cooked meats) and handle your food as quickly as possible to reduce risk of contamination. Botulism and other food-borne illness are not able detected by sight, smell or taste. For this reason, always follow proper canning procedures.
Heat processing (and pressure processing, specifically) kills the bacteria that may contaminate your food, and the sealing process keeps your food from becoming re-contaminated. If you observe that the seal is not complete, you must either refrigerate or freeze the food immediately. Do not guess when it comes to canning, especially meats.
Pints should be cooked for 75 minutes and quarts for at least 90 minutes, and this is true whether you are canning cooked or raw meats. You will gauge your processing time from the point when your pressure cooker reaches 10 pounds of pressure (or 11 pounds if you are using a dial gauge canner). The time and pressure used should be adjusted for your altitude.
When canning cooked meats, you will want to fill the jars with meat that is pre-cooked to approximately 2/3 done-ness and hot broth, leaving 1 1/4 inch of headspace. Ground meats are generally better canned after cooking and with excess fats removed. You can optionally add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jar. After leaving 1-inch headspace, remove air bubbles, and adjust headspace if needed.
Raw meats will be packed without liquids. Optionally add 1 teaspoon per salt per quart to the jar, and fill hot jars with raw meat pieces. Leave 1-inch headspace, remove air bubbles, and adjust headspace if needed.
Wipe jar rims clean and adjust lids as needed prior to processing.
If you wish to can fish, choose a fatty fish (but not tuna), and keep them on ice until ready to can. Make certain the skin is next to the glass, and do not add liquids. The processing time for raw fish is 100 minutes. Do not can with head, tail, fins and scales and do not cook.
Canning Varies By Type of Meat
Different kinds and cuts of meat require variations in temperature and pressure. Consult tested, USDA approved, and current recipes for safe canning standards. Most food-borne illness are the result of improper handling and storage of food.
You should not attempt to cool your pressure cooker faster than by simply removing it from the heat source. Once jars are removed from the canner, do not allow them to set in a drafty location.
Once your jars have cooled, test the lids. They should be concave and not move when pressed. If they do not meet these requirements, your seals are not secure and you must cold-store your canned meat.
Canning your own meat can give you the peace of mind of knowing what is in your foods as well as being sure about the quality of the food that you eat. The investment of time in canning your own meat is definitely worth it.