Posted by Pyrrh on October 16th, 2009
How practical is your food storage? I mean, really? Do you have a year’s worth of only wheat, beans, and powdered milk? How are you planning on fixing it? These items are ideal in terms of long-term food storage, but you need to be sure you have food that your family will eat on a regular basis.
In order to eat what you store, you must store what you eat.
How many days of the week do you eat meat? How much of that can you store? What if the power goes out? How will you save all the meat that you have frozen?
That’s a lot of tuna fish, canned chicken, canned ham, TVP, and dried beef in your basement. And all of that can be expensive, too. If you want to store a pound of meat for every day of the year, that is 365 pounds of meat. Whew!
I’ll say again: In order to eat what you store, you must store what you eat.
What we need is an economical way to store a variety of meat that isn’t over-processed and tastes like an aluminum can – or SPAM.
The answer: Bottle your own!
Buy your meat in bulk when it is on sale or markdown, bottle it yourself, and only use what you need. You won’t need a lot of freezer space, and you can reuse your bottles. It is both economical and practical. You can bottle nearly any kind of meat, except for processed things like hot dogs and turkey ham. Don’t worry about rotation, either – the shelf life is three years and you can rotate an entire year’s worth by using only two jars per week. This isn’t SPAM we’re talking about, or other processed meats with excessive salt and things like sugar, msg, and other miscellaneous parts (eww). It tastes nothing like canned chicken from the store, nor is it like the funky dry beef chunks in canned stews. This is real chicken, ham, pork, and beef that you’ve selected yourself. The meat is tender, juicy, fully cooked, and fantastic. You won’t need to worry about defrosting it, and it works for a last-minute meal, too.
I first learned of this from Wendy DeWitt of Everything Under The Sun. I suggest reading through her instructions, as well. She has great ideas on how to store, rotate, and use the meat you bottle. She deserves credit for many of the instructions you see here.
You must use a pressure canner (not cooker) to bottle meats. Have your gauge tested at your local County Extension Office every year to be sure of safety and accuracy. You can also ask them at what pressure to can your meat, depending on your altitude. A good canner is a wise investment that will last forever. Check your canner and stove manuals before trying this on a glass-top stove!!! (I’d like to note that both Wendy and I have glass-top stoves and have done this with no problems. BE CAREFUL and do not slide your canner around on the stove; carefully put your cold and empty canner on the element and do not move it at all. After removing your bottles and waiting for the canner to cool completely, carefully lift it off – it is very heavy – to empty the water. This is no guarantee for your stove’s safety, however, so I wanted to provide this warning!)
A pint bottle will hold 1 pound of meat, a quart will hold 2 pounds. Invest in some good jars when you first start canning and reuse them; old or cheap jars can crack under the pressure needed.
You don’t need to cook your meat before you bottle it, nor will you add any water.
(The exception is ground meat, which turns out better if you brown it first, then pack it in water.)
Wash your jars and rings. You don’t need to sterilize them.
Screw down the canner lid, making sure the top is even, and turn your stove on high. Don’t put the weight on the pressure valve until steam has spouted out of the valve for about 10 minutes. This expresses the air out of the jars and the canner. After venting the air, put the weight onto the pressure valve or close the pepcock (depending on your type of canner) to start building pressure.
When the gauge gets to the correct pressure, begin timing 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts for all meat except for fish, which is 90 minutes for pints and 105 minutes for quarts. You will need to start turning down the heat to keep the pressure stable and may need to continue turning it down while it is cooking. Never leave your canner during this time! When the pressure drops or increases, a vacuum effect causes the juices in the jar to be pulled out. Keep the gauge at the correct pressure. Be prepared in advance so you do not have to leave the room!
At the end of the processing time you will turn the heat completely off. Don’t move the canner or touch the valves; just let the pressure go down on its own. When it’s back to zero, release the pressure valve (or remove the weight), take off the lid, put the jars on the counter away from cool drafts and let them cool completely. You’ll hear the beautiful plinking sound of success when the lids seal. If a jar doesn’t seal, you can just refrigerate it for later use. (Have some bread or buns and some barbecue sauce handy – you’ll want to break one open even if they all seal!) After they are cool, remove the ring, wipe the bottles clean, and put them into your pantry or back in the box for storage.
This is my beef after it is done. I just used beef stew meat for this, and used boneless skinless chicken breasts for the chicken you see pictured. This meat is so good that we look forward to the diet days that we get to use it!