Sunday, November 9, 2008

Canning Chicken--let's begin

I am using a Presto canner for this canning job.  This Presto is a 23 quart pressure canner.  They cost about $90 or so.  I've seen them as cheap as $85 recently online.  Usually with free shipping.

This canner will hold two layers of pints jars for a total of 18 jars.  It also has a pressure gauge as you can see.  This indicates the pressure for the canner.  

I have a smaller Presto canner that doesn't have the dial gauge but just uses the weight jiggling as the measure of pressure.  

I also have an All American Canner which does not have a rubber gasket it inside the lid.  It is all metal on metal.  The All American costs around $200 online.  This canner should last forever because there is no danger of the gasket drying out and going bad.  

Your first step in canning is to prepare your jars.  Clean them thoroughly and check them for cracks or chips.  Especially on the rim.  Run your finger around the top of the rim, if you feel a rough spot or a chip, investigate it.  If it's a chip in the glass, DO NOT use it.  

My scientific explanation is that if there is a chip in the rim and you use the jar, little nasty yucky disease thingies can get into the jar and hurt you.  You probably will not end up with a sealed lid anyway.  Or the lid may seal temporarily and then unseal and you've wasted some food you worked really hard not to eat.

Ok, that's all the scary stuff about canning and it's all out of the way now.  On with the show.  Your jars are clean and ready to go.
I usually add 1/2 tsp of salt (I use sea salt) to the bottom of the jar.  You do not have to use salt at all.  It is completely optional. 
I can most of my meat starting raw.  I'll tell ya right now, canned hamburger that started raw in the jar looks just nasty.  Chicken is not too bad.  You'll see that at the end of the instructions here.  

You can cook your meat first if looks are important to you.  For some, they are.  I have cooked my hamburger first and then canned it and it looks much nicer in the jar.  I'll do a post for hamburger later and show you the difference.

Anyway, back to the chicken.  I typically use chicken tenders because then I don't have to trim any fat or cut it up.  You can use chicken breast or any other cut that you'd like.  

            Just start putting the raw chicken in the jar.  

You are going to want to pack the jar very tightly.  The chicken is going to cook while in the pressure canner and therefore reduce it's size.  Squish it down in there.

I leave about 1/2 inch headspace in my jar.  Head space is the amount of room from the top of the food to the top of the jar.   You can see that I packed them just up between the start of the threads for the jar.
             Pack all your jars and then get ready for the lids and rings.

Clean the Rims

With a warm, damp towel or cloth, pinch the rim between your fingers and wipe the rims clean.  Cleaning the rim, removes any little bits of food that could prevent the lid from sealing to the rim.  This is especially important with super gooey foods like jam and peaches.  But, always do it with every canning job.

For those who are still a little wary of canning meat, once you've wiped the rims, you can use a cotton swap dipped in alcohol and wipe the rims once more.  Not necessary, but some do it.

                                                        Ready for the lids!

Lids and Rings

Once the rims are wiped clean, it's time to put on the lids.  

While preparing the jars and chicken, place the correct amount of lids in a pan with water to cover the lids.  Pul the heat to low and just let them sit there while you're working.

This green magnet wand is great in picking out the lids from the hot water so you don't burn yourself.  You can always use a fork or something to pull up the lids from the water.

            Place the lids on the clean rims.

Screw on your bands tightly.  Not so tightly that you break the jar.  Just until the band is on snugly.  It's just there to hold on the lids until they seal to the rims.
                       All the jars ready to go in the canner.

Loading the Canner

My Presto canner starts with 4 quarts of water and about 1/2 cup or so of white vinegar.  The vinegar will keep the canner clean and help with the odors.

Read you instruction manual for your canner and how much water it takes.  You don't want your canner full more that half way once the jars are in.  You need to allow for water displacement. (It's nice to know that elementary school science comes in to play.)  Remember, you're not doing a water bath, we're using steam to process the jars.  Therefore, less water is needed.

No need to have the water hot.  The raw meat is cold so the jars are cold.  There is so little water in the canner that it heats up quickly and heats up the jars along with it.  You can start with cold water and cold jars.

The canner comes with a flat rack with holes in it that sets in the bottom of the canner.  If you get a big canner, you'll need to order an extra rack so that you can put the second rack on top of the first layer of pint jars.

My large Presto canner has enough room for two layers of pint size jars.  Here you see the bottom layer.  I am able to get 9 regular mouth jars in very comfortably.  When you're using wide mouth jars, just know that you won't get as many in per layer.

This is the second layer, which has been arranged just like the bottom layer.  The second layer is sitting on top of a second rack, which is sitting on top of the first layer of jars.

Revving up the Canner!

Before you put the top on the canner, take a quick look through the steam vent.  Just to make sure it clear and open and not clogged.

Put the top on the canner and lock it into place.
Turn the heat up to HIGH.  You're waiting for steam to start really streaming through the vent pipe.  This picture is probably impossible to see the steam.  But it's there, I promise.

Set the timer for 10 minutes to steam out the canner.  This is to really fill the canner full of steam which will of course produce the pressure once the weight is put on.
After the ten minutes, place the weight or pressure regulator on the vent pipe.
On the Presto canners, there is a pressure gauge that will pop up to indicate the canner is full of pressure.  If the gauge is UP, don't play with the weight or try to open the canner.

You'll process the meat 75 minutes at 10 lbs pressure for PINTS.  90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure for QUARTS.  There will be quite a bit of heating up time and cooling down time.  Start timing once the pressure gauge show 10 lbs.  Or, if you don't have a gauge, when the weight starts to rock.  Note:  10 lbs pressure is for 0-1000 feet altitude.  Make sure you know your altitude an adjust pressure accordingly.  I recommend purchasing the most recent Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving.

For a non-gauge canner, you'll want your weight to rock gently with a consistent movement.  If there's too much time in between rocks, increase the heat.  If the rocking starts to get violent, decrease the heat.
Don't mess with the canner while there is still pressure in it.  Turn off the heat after the processing time is done.  Let it cool down on it's own.

Once the gauge shows 0 and the pressure indicator is flush against the canner, you can open the canner.  Just remember, it's HOT!

Almost Done!

Be careful.  Everything is very hot.  Use your jar tongs to remove the jars from the canner.  Put them on a cooling rack with a little space between each jar.  

These jars are right out of the canner.  It might be impossible to see that they're still boiling inside, but they are.  Cool completely overnight.  Check to make sure the lids sealed to the rim of the jar by tapping in the center.  If the sound is hollow and there's a bit of a slight bump, the lid did not seal.  Put it in the fridge and have it for dinner or reprocess it.

If the lid sound tinny and is firm in the middle, the lid sealed and you're good to go.
Remove the rings, wash each jar in hot, soapy water and dry and label with date and what's in the jar.
                        All washed up and ready for the storage room.  

The chicken and other meat you can should be eaten in 1-2 years.  As long as you still have a good seal on it, it'll be fine.  It's just recommended to be eaten in a year or so.

I always smell mine and just check it out before I use it in a dish.  Just to be on the safe side.  I've lost a few jars of hamburger when a seal unsealed.  No big deal, just throw it away.

Good luck!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pressure Canning Meat

1.  Wash and prepare jars, lids and rings.
2.  Optional:  add 1 tsp salt to bottom of jar.
3.  Pack raw meat tightly into prepared jars within 1/2 inch of top of jar.
4.  Wipe rims of jars clean.
5.  Put on warm lids and rings.

6.  Read instructions for pressure canner.  Fill with about 4 quarts of cool-warm water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar.  The canner should not be filled more than 1/2 way with water.
7.  Put filled jars in canner.  Usually you can get 9 comfortably in canner.  If you have a tall canner, place rack on top of first layer of jars and put the next layer in.  This can only be done with pint jars or smaller.
8.  Put lid of canner on and close tightly.

9.  Turn burner on to high heat.  The steam vent (small pipe on top of canner lid) will start to show steam as the water heats up.
10.  Once the steam has a steady output, time it for 10 minutes before placing the weight on the vent.
11.  Once the weight is on the steam vent, pressure will begin to build.  The pressure valve will pop up which indicates that the canner is full of pressure.
12.  Keep canner on high heat until the weight starts to rock or jiggle.  If the rocking becomes violent, turn down the heat until the weight continues with a gentle rock.  You'll be able to hear it rocking.
13.  Don't worry if a small puddle of water accumulates under the weight or around the pressure valve.
14.  If you have a canner with a gauge, build pressure to the amount indicated in the recipe.  The weight on the steam valve will also rock.  Turn down the heat to maintain the correct pressure.

15.  Once the correct pressure is reached, begin timing.  For pints of chicken and beef (no bones) the pressure is 10 lbs for 75 minutes (at sea level).  For quarts of chicken and beef (no bones) the pressure is 10 lbs for 90 minutes.
16.  Once the time is up, turn off the heat and let the canner depressurize.  DO NOT TOUCH IT!!!
17.  Once the pressure valve has dropped and is flush against the canner, you can open the lid.
18.  Do not try to cool the canner other than just naturally.

19.  The jars inside the canner are HOT.  You'll see that the liquid inside the jars is boiling.  The boiling will continue for a couple of hours.
20.  The the jars cool on a cookie rack over night.
21.  After the jars have cooled, remove the ring and wash each jar with hot soap and water.  Dry and label them with what's in the jars and the month/year.