Saturday, January 22, 2011

How To Can Meat Products

Remember that pozole from the other day?  I still have some.  I'm saving it for later.  I canned several jars of it for later days.  If you've never canned before the procedure can seem a little daunting at first.  There are a lot of precautions to take and tools to buy and prayers to be said.  You don't want to do a quickie canning job and end up with botulism.  No fun.  But it really is quite a simple task and with practice, it becomes easy as pie.  First thing you need to do is ensure you have the proper tools.

1.  Jar grabber
2.  magnet-on-a-stick (I'm sure there is a proper name for that tool, but I don't know it and its more fun to say magnet...on-a-steeek)
3.  bubble wand (also, not the proper name.  If you know what these items are called, please tell me.)

You can find these items at most department or discount stores in the 'Home Goods' aisle.  They're pretty cheap, about $10 total.  I've seen them at Walmart. 

4.  You're also going to need some jars, lids, and metal rings.  You can find jars in the same area as the tools.  They usually come in a set of 6 or 12.  I usually pay about $8-$10 for a dozen, depending on size.  I chose to use pint sized jars because they are the only size I can fit in my pressure cooker.

5.  And you need a pressure cooker.  Sizes, quality, and prices may vary.  But a great investment.  Not just for canning.  I love cooking beans in mine.  Cuts the time down to 45-60 minutes.

Make sure your jars, lids, rings and all canning tools are very clean.  You can sanitize them in the dishwasher prior to canning or you can boil them.  That's what I usually do, seeing as how I have to boil water anyway.  Just drop all the lids and rings right into the pot with the jars.

Make sure the meat you're canning is cooked thoroughly.  It's best to can immediately after cooking so that there is less opportunity for bacteria to begin to grow.  I'm canning pozole that I made the day before.  What I do is return the soup to a pot and boil for 5 minutes to ensure that anything that may have started growing in the refrigerator over night will not survive. 

Remove a sanitized jar from the water, dump the hot water in the jar down the drain, and place the jar on the counter top. 
Do not touch the jar! 

#1 Its really hot.
#2 You don't want to contaminate it. 

I place my jars on top of a kitchen towel to catch all the drippings (its about to get messy).  You don't necessarily have to use a funnel during this step, but it sure does make things easier.  Ladle your product into the jars, filling them to within 1/4 inch of the rim. 

Here's where you get to use your nifty bubble wand.  Insert the narrow end of the wand into the jar and use it to help remove any air bubbles that may be trapped in the jar.  Just move it around inside the jar gently to release any bubbles.  See... bubble wand.

The other end has handy dandy measurements on it that will help you determine where the heck a 1/4 inch from the rim of the jar might be. 

This one needs a little more liquid. 

Once the measurements are accurate, the air bubbles are removed, and as long as you're not turning blue from holding your breath so as not to breathe into the jar, thus contaminating your product... take a clean paper towel and wipe the rim of the jar clean and dry.  This is important to get a proper seal. 

Use the magnet-on-a-steeeek to fish a lid out of the boiling water and place it on the rim of the jar immediately. 

Then fish out a ring and gently screw it down.  Not super tight - just finger-tip tight.  You should be able to unscrew it with one hand, but you still want it tight enough to hold down the lid.

Repeat this process until all your jars are filled and sealed, or all of your product is gone. 

Use the jar grabbers to place the filled and sealed jars back into the boiling water.  The water level should rise above the jars by at least one inch.  I need to add a little more. 

Replace the lid and seal it properly so that it is airtight.  Pressure cook the jars at 10 lbs psi for 1 hour and 15 minutes if using pints, or 1 hour and 30 minutes is using quarts.

The time starts when the pot has been pressurized.  You can tell when that happens because the little spout on the lid will start hissing and sputtering steam.
When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool on its own before you attempt to remove the lid.  Remember, its still under pressure until the spout drops on its own and stops releasing steam.  If you attempt to unlock the lid too early, the force of the pressure can cause the lid and the contents of the pot to fly out of your grip.  This is dangerous.   
Don't be shocked when you look into the cooled pot and find this...
Most of the water is gone.  That's OK.  All that steam had to come from somewhere, right?  This is one reason why its important to fill the water level to at least one inch above the jar lids before you begin.  At an hour and fifteen minutes or more of processing, you're bound to lose a lot of water in the form of steam. 
Remove the jars from the pot with your jar grabbers and place them about two inches apart in an area safe from disturbance for the next 12 hours or so.  Let them cool naturally.  Cooling the jars is part of the preservation process.  They aren't fully sealed until they have cooled enough for the lids to create a vacuum seal during the cooling process.  You will know that this has happened when you hear a "pop," or "ping," sound.  This sound is the result of the metal lids being "sucked" inwards, indicating that any air inside the jar has escaped and the lid is vacuum sealed so that no air can get in. 
When the jars are cool enough to be handled, you can remove the metal rings (which are probably very loose from being rattled around inside the pressure cooker), wash the outside of the jars, and label them for storage. 
If the procedure was followed correctly and the jars were properly sealed, your jarred products should be safe for consumptions for two the three years.  Always inspect home processed jars for damage and contamination before eating the product. 

I hope you try this at least once in your life.  Its not for everyone.  But if you have the time, and the desire to try new things, canning your own food can be very rewarding. 

Good luck and have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for providing this information. I know that people can meat products (homemade stew, chicken soup, ravioli, etc). I did note however(with disappointment) that the national canning organization (or a similar name) said that canning meats can not be guareenteed to be safe. It that because the person canning must assure that the meat product is thoroughly cooked, and that every stage is assured to be santitary,germ free, and all the air is out of the product?