How to Pressure Can Chicken Meat: An Illustrated Guide
Canned Chicken in Readiness
How Easy Is It to Can Meat?
Canning chicken or other meat is no trickier than canning green beans, soup, or any other food processed in a pressure canner.
The steps involved are largely the same ones you would take while preparing a stewed or roasted chicken for any meal. The handling will be much the same up through cooking and shredding or chopping the meat.
After this, you will need to fill the jars and process them correctly at high pressure to ensure that any bacteria are properly taken care of, so your meat will be safe to store and eat.
I am demonstrating a hot-pack method, as opposed to a raw- or cold-pack method. You may use whichever method suits you better. The hot-pack method means I can get more meat in each jar because any shrinkage from cooking has already happened.
This whole process happens in six stages, or groups of steps, and covers cooking time plus up to four hours per canner load.
The result will be tender, juicy chicken meat ready to put into casseroles, gravies, soups, burritos, and many other meals.
It is up to you how seasoned or spicy your meat is, and how many other foods, such as vegetables or mushrooms, you mix with it. The possibilities are many.
Fish, venison, beef, and pork also may be canned using a similar process to that of poultry.
Chicken or Other Meats: Raw-Pack Method
Quick Reference for Canning Poultry
Processing/Cooking time: 90 minutes for quarts, 75 for pints (after 10 lbs. pressure is built in canner)
Pressure Setting: 10 lbs. (may be 12 lbs. at high elevations)
Overall time per full canner load: 3-4 hours (from filling jars to emptying cooled canner)
Jar Size: Quarts, either wide or regular mouth; Pints, either wide or regular mouth
Storage term: 1+ years normally (depends on storage conditions, such as humidity)
Supplies & Equipment
Have ready all of your equipment (clean, of course), except jars, such as:
- Pressure canner in good working order. (Do not try to use a regular pressure cooker designed for cooking small amounts of food. These are usually not rated for canning, and may not work correctly.)
Cooking pot(s) or stock pots for preparing your meat (If you are roasting, instead, a large, enamel-coated roaster is preferred.)
Wooden spoon, for filling/packing jars (you may use well-washed hands, if you prefer)
Ladle, for adding broth to packed jars
Canning funnel (has a wider mouth than normal funnel), optional especially if you are using wide-mouth jars
Tongs or a magnetic lid lifter
Clean, damp cloth(s), or paper towels, for wiping jar rims once they are filled with your product
Jar lifter, for lifting the hot jars in and out of the canner
Canning jars, quarts or pints (do not use regular "upcycled" jars, which are of a lower quality, and may shatter during processing)
Canning lids of an appropriate size(s)
Cake tin or saucepan, for scalding canning lids
Vinegar (optional), for adding to canner water to avoid hard-water stains
A clean towel and an out-of-the-way, heat resistant surface on which to set the jars once they are finished (we use a bath towel, as we often process many jars during a session)
Once everything is in readiness, you can proceed to wash and fill your jars.
Please note that I am demonstrating with old (but well serviced) pressure canners. Be sure you read and understand the instructions which come with your particular model or type.
Low Acid Foods & Canning Safety
Always use a pressure canner for meats and other low-acid foods. Waterbath or steam canning does not get such foods hot enough to safely store them long term, by killing bacterial throughout the whole jar of food.
Remember that you can't always see or smell illness-causing agents, and in any case, you don't want to waste your time and resources through careless or improper handling, leading to spoilage.
First, Cook And Chop Your Meat
Roast or stew your chickens using plenty of good water to make broth, especially if you wish to can broth separately, for later use in soups, rice dishes, and so on.
When it is tender, cool it to a handleable temperature, and chop or shred it into whatever size pieces you want to use later. Keep in mind that smaller pieces will allow for better penetration of heat during processing.
Stage 1 - Preparing the Meat
Next, Prepare Your Canning Jars and Canning Equipment
Select only proper, brand-name canning jars. (Quarts usually work best for this project. You can decide if you'd rather use wide mouth or regular tops, however.) Inspect them for chips, cracks, or other weaknesses. (A regular jar, such as a pickle jar, might not be able to take the heat and pressure during this process, and may break.)
Wash each jar thoroughly in hot, soapy water, paying special attention to the threads around the top, and the bottoms of the jars on the inside, especially if they have been used before. You may also prepare them in an automatic dishwasher, or by sterilizing in an oven. 200°F for 20 minutes per batch is a general rule. You can set them in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet. If your jars have been stored in a basement or outbuilding in which vermin have been allowed to run, you would be wise to soak them in water to which a bit of chlorine has been added.
Set the jars aside to dry.
Have ready the number of rings and lids you estimate you will need, and wash them.
Stage 2 - Preparing Your Equipment
Wash and Scald Lids
Place the lids in a small pan (a layer cake pan works well), and pour boiling water over them to scald them. Leave them in the water until you are ready to put them on the jars.
Stage 3 - Packing Jars
Lids and Rings
With a very clean, damp cloth or paper towel, wipe each jar's rim, and any dribbles down its sides. There must be nothing to prevent or break a seal.
Using the tongs or magnetic lid lifter, lift one lid at a time from the pan of hot or simmering water, and place it on the jar without touching the lid with your hands, if you can help it. Adjust two-piece caps, screwing the bands on finger-tight. This will allow for proper expansion during processing.
Then, Fill the Canner
Put two quarts of water in the bottom of your pressure canner, and place the jars in it—six around the outside, and one in the center on a wire rack.
Put the lid of the canner on, aligning the two marks on the lid and body of the canner (on the front), and tighten the screws down in opposite pairs, snugly. Go around at least twice, checking the screws for tightness, before turning the fire on under the canner.
Use good judgment when deciding how high to turn the heat. On some stoves, "high" is not too hot or fast, while on others, "medium" would be pushing it. Whatever you do, now is the time to keep a close eye on your canner.
Stage 4: The Canning Process
Bringing Your Canner Up to a Full-Pressure Boil
Once the heat is started under your pressure canner, the wait for it to come up to temperature and build proper pressure can be long. This should not be hurried too fast, because of the danger of damage or breakage to your jars. They need to warm and expand gently, and a full canner load can take a while, especially if your product is cool. If you have had to cook your meat one day, and can it the next, with refrigeration in between, you will need to plan for a very gentle heating period. So plan something you can do which will keep you within hearing distance of the kitchen.
You will know your canner has reached a full boil when steam begins blowing from the safety valve in the lid. Allow the valve to steam for ten minutes before placing the weight on, set for 10 lbs. pressure. You will need to wait a few minutes more for pressure to build. Once it does, adjust your heat to allow for one jiggle of the weight every several seconds. Many jiggles per minute means that your heat is too high; fewer than four means your heat is probably too low. Experience will teach you the "magic" setting to maintain precise pressure, so check your gauge often. Too low a pressure means your product will not have been heated to a safe level for long-term storage.
How Long Is the Processing?
Process jars for a full 90 minutes for quarts (75 for pints) from the time that the canner comes up to pressure. Once 90 minutes is complete, turn the heat off under canner.
Cooling Your Canner and Jars
The canner needs to cool until the weight stops jiggling, and the gauge reads “zero”. Then remove the weight and allow the canner to continue cooling another few minutes, to further equalize pressure within. Finally, remove the lid, and let the jars sit five minutes, to allow them to adjust to cooler air, before removing them to their resting area. Use a jar lifter and hot pad to move each one. Your hot pad will probably get damp and greasy, so use one you don't care about!
Set jars on a towel or board in a draft-free area, and allow them to sit still for several hours or overnight, until they are cooled entirely. Check lids for a good seal (there should be no "give," and they should be sucked down). You will probably hear the lids "ping" as the meat cools, and pressure changes in the jars. Any that have not sealed may be refrigerated and used within a couple days... or you may clean the jar rims thoroughly, use new lids, and reprocess them. (Usually, all jars seal with no problem.)
Stage 5 - Cooling Everything Down
Washing Up and Storing Jars
You will need to scrub your jars and canner in hot, soapy water, once they are quite cool. Of course, you will need to wash all your other equipment as well. Remove the rings from your jars and wash the threads. (Some people prefer to store jars without rings, anyhow, so they know more easily whether a jar has come unsealed and begun to spoil.) You definitely don't wish to attract vermin with greasy jars.
Two Canners... and Then Some
My mother and I worked together to prepare this demonstration. We had quite a bit of food prep to do in a short time, so had a full stove.
Once your meat is in your jars, you'll have a long time waiting for the canning process to complete. Make the most of it and freeze vegetables, bake bread, or prepare lunches! You'll be glad you did.
And later on, when you are forced into multitasking while juggling work, home, and food—maybe even homesteading—you'll thank yourself for taking advantage of a day here and there to can meat.
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Several Kinds of Home-Canned Meats, With Ideas for Using in Recipes
Storing Home-Canned Products
Home-canned products like cool—but not cold—environments, with even temperatures. An underground cellar or unheated basement is ideal.
Any severe temperature change in the atmosphere will cause the pressure in the jars to change, and may make them come unsealed. If this happens, you will have spoiled food in your storage.
It is a good idea to check your jars periodically, even if you have no serious doubts about their environment.
Do you raise your own meat for freezing or canning?
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Joilene Rasmussen