Introductory Proviso: This article assumes that the user is already familiar with safe practices to pressure-can meat. This article is NOT a comprehensive discussion of all the caveats and procedures necessary for safe canning. It is ONLY supplementary information for specific items and situations listed below. The correct procedures (times and pressures) for safely pressure-canning low-pH items like meats are available from the manufacturer of your pressure canner or from the USDA.
My wife and I enjoy pressure canning, and believe it to be the best procedure for storing small quantities of meat and other perishables for easy transportation and storage in a grid-down environment where refrigeration and cooking may be unavailable or problematic. Pressure-canned meat is moist (it is cooked during the canning process in its own juices), fork-tender, and delicious. It is already cooked and only requires warming — or if you’re really desperate, eaten cold. In addition, even in a non-emergency environment, we have found that it provides us with quick, pre-cooked meals for dinner when we are both tired from working all day and don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort making dinner.
We have found that most of the recipes for canning are for quantities in pints and quarts. My wife and I are both small people and don’t eat a lot. These quantities of food are just too big for us to use in a reasonable amount of time, and result in a quantity of perishable food after we open a jar that must be used quickly or it will spoil. We typically can meat in half-pint or quarter-pint jars, and soups or other complete meals in pints. Such quantities would also be desirable for a person living alone that would not be able to reliably refrigerate a partially used jar of food.
If you are into canning, or considering getting into canning, I strongly urge you to explore reusable canning lids like Tattler or Harvest Guard (an advertiser on the SurvivalBlog site). This reduces your consumables to near zero. Remember that when using reusable lids, you must retighten them when removing them from the canner. Put your hot mitts on and grab each jar after removing it from the canner and give it a twist to make sure the lid is tight.
The only downside to reusable lids is the unlikelihood of getting your reusable lids back if you give away any of your canned food. One admirable point that is stressed here at SurvivalBlog is the concept of Christian charity in difficult times. When canning, you might want to use a few metal lids for each batch, with those jars becoming your potential giveaway food – if you never see that person again, you only lost the jar, not the reusable lid.
There was a lot of chatter on the survival sites about the unavailability of canning jars in late 2020. While I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart, they do carry canning jars, and seem to stock them in larger quantities than the rural supply stores, which I find odd. Meijer (another ‘everything’ store like Wal-Mart) carries canning supplies too, as well as Menard’s, a home improvement store! So don’t be afraid to look there for canning supplies.
Another frustration with many of the canning recipes available on-line is that they do not specify how many or what size jars are required, therefore making it difficult to make sure that you have enough — or too many — clean jars on hand for your canning session. My mother used to say, “A pint is a pound, the world around”. That is true – generally, depending on the specific gravity of the particular item, one pint of most anything generally weighs about one pound. This is a handy rule of thumb for planning the number of jars required for your canning sessions, but there are pitfalls. One pound of ground meat will be around one pint, but if you are using that pound of meat to make sloppy joe mix or taco mix, the additional ingredients will add to the final amount and your pound of ground meat will wind up filling more than one pint jar, two half-pint jars, or four quarter-pint jars. You can use that rule of thumb to help make an educated guess on the number of jars you will need if the recipe does not specify – in my recipes below I indicate the number of jars required.
Some Meat Canning Tips
Taco meat – Brown ground beef, drain fat, and add taco seasoning and water per package directions. One pound of ground beef will make three half-pint jars, or two pounds of meat will make 6. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
Sloppy Joe mix – Brown ground beef, drain fat, and add Sloppy Joe mix seasoning and water per package directions. One pound of ground beef with the other ingredients from your favorite sloppy joe recipe will make about three half-pint jars, or two pounds of meat will make 6. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
Bacon – Roll 2 ½ strips of raw bacon up tightly and place in a quarter-pint jar. One lb of bacon will fill five quarter-pint jars with ½ strip left over. The only disadvantage to this is you can’t unroll them after it is cooked during canning, so this is only for bacon bits for omelets, salads, etc. If you like crispy bacon you will want to cook it some more after opening to dry and crispen it up. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
Breakfast Sausage – I wanted to find a way to simply can sausage patties. The tubes of regular breakfast sausage are around 2 3/8” wide, about the same diameter as a quarter pint jar. However, the thawed raw sausage was too crumbly to slice reliably. My solution was to raw-pack the sausage into a half-pint jar. After cooking the meat during the pressure canning process, and removing the cooked chunk of meat from the jar, the meat was solid enough to slice easily. The meat, while cooked through, will still look pink on the inside, and you can finish the patties after slicing by frying them for a short time on the griddle while frying your eggs, pancakes, etc. Typically we start with four pounds of sausage, raw-pack 3 lbs. into seven ½ pint jars (to be sliced into patties after opening), and brown the remaining one lb. and fill five ¼ pint jars for use in omelets, mess, etc. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
One disadvantage of raw-packing higher-fat meats, like beef and sausage, is that the fat separates out of the meat when canning and forms a layer on top of the finished product. For this reason, generally only lower-fat meats, like chicken, are raw-pack canned, and higher-fat meats are browned first to remove the fat before canning. However, while thinking about the problem of how to store fats without them turning rancid, it occurred to me that the fat on top of the jars of raw-packed meat was a safely preserved small amount of fat, which can be immediately used for shortening for biscuits or any other cooking need where fat is required. Like the computer and IT folks like to say, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”
Bean soup – This is a great way to make and can bean soup that cooks the beans during the canning process. Start with seven pint jars (wide mouth are more convenient), a ham hock, a medium onion, 2 ¼ quarts of water, and 1 lb. of navy beans. Simmer the ham hock overnight in the crock pot in the 2 ¼ quarts of water. The next day, remove the bones from the ham hock and chop up the meat. Dice the onion. Divide the beans, onion, and ham evenly among the seven pint jars and add the water that the ham hock cooked in, leaving ¾” headspace in the jars. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
Tomato mac and beef – DISCLAIMER: Published guidelines state that you are not supposed to pressure-can pasta. However we do it and really enjoy this recipe for a quick meal and have not ever had any problems. So, use at your own risk. Six pint jars, one lb. ground beef, two cups elbow macaroni, one half-gallon can of tomato juice. Brown the ground beef. Layer 1/3 cup of elbow macaroni and 1/6 lb. of browned ground beef in each jar. Pour tomato juice over the top and use a wooden spoon handle or similar device to poke down through the beef and macaroni in ten places or so to allow the tomato juice to penetrate down through. You should have about 1” of headspace in the jars above the tomato juice after doing this. You can also add a medium diced onion to this if you like. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
Potato and leek soup: Six pint jars, three medium potatoes, one large leek (16” or so long) or two smaller ones, two cans chicken broth. Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove any dirt or sand. Slice them into 1/8” rings. Peel and dice the potatoes. Layer into the jars and cover with boiling chicken broth. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.
DON’T throw away the leek root bulbs after making this recipe. Put it in a jar of water where it can get some sun, and let it resprout. After a week or so, transplant it into potting soil in a pot and let it grow – you won’t have to buy leeks again! You will be able to cut off the stems again after six weeks or so of growth and let them grow again. The same is true for chives, and green onions (scallions). You’ll never have to buy them again!
Potatoes – We love mashed potatoes, and mashing them before canning ensures that you get the most in each jar with no air bubbles. Weigh your potatoes before starting. Three pounds of potatoes is about a normal-sized batch of mashed potatoes in a large cookpot and will fill three pint-size jars. Peel, cook, and mash without milk. Add ¼ tsp. of canning salt in each jar if desired. Pressure can for 35 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure. When ready to serve, heat, add milk and butter as desired, and mash them again to make them as smooth as possible.
Good luck and God bless!