Guide to Canning Meat

Canning meat is a process best left to the professionals. No matter how careful home canners are, because of the bacteria found in soil and on vegetables, fruits and meat (as well as possible cross contamination from a seemingly clean kitchen), there is always a chance of bacteria forming.

Approximately 150 cases of food poisoning occur annually-the majority of these cases are caused by home canned products that have been mishandled or prepared in an unsafe manner. These statistics point toward less than sanitary conditions, combined with a lack of knowledge or understanding of how foods must be processed, stored and when food is likely to have gone bad.

However, if you are determined to can meat at home, remember these facts:

  • Pressure cooking is the only way to can meat. If the meat is not processed at a high enough temperature-which can only be achieved by pressure canning-the bacteria that causes botulism will not be destroyed. Botulism bacteria is not necessarily visible, so home canners need to be especially careful.
  • Never taste test a canned product that looks suspicious. Discard home canned products that look suspicious or have an unpleasant aroma in a safe manner so that animals or children will not be exposed.
  • Remove as much fat as possible-too much fat has been known to ruin the seal
  • Sanitize all work areas
  • Use only good quality cuts of meat
  • Use wide mouth jars
  • Meat purchased for home canning purposes should be canned within one day of purchase
  • To ensure your canned meats are thoroughly cooked prior to placing the meat into the jar, it must be cooked ¾ of the way through. This can be accomplished through steaming or baking. Do not fry meat that is going to be canned.
  • Loosely pack meat into jars. Do not pack tightly as you might fruits and vegetables.
  • Leave a large headspace of 1 ¼ inches. This headspace is needed for adequate boiling of the liquid inside the jar. Do not deviate from this amount.

Canned Meat
Always choose healthy livestock and keep in mind that large chickens are more flavorful than fryers. Meats can be canned with or without bones, and rabbits and chickens are processed in the same manner. To remove some of the gamey taste from rabbits, place the meat in the refrigerator overnight in water with one cup of salt added. Chill dressed chickens for 6 to 12 hours prior to processing.

Follow the specific pressure canning directions for meat found in the book that accompanied your pressure canner. As long as the book was not written prior to 1990, the canning recipes will be fine. If the book was printed before 1990, purchase an updated version of USDA Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing.

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