I’m preparing to live a month without refrigeration. See my last post about this. Part of that preparation got me thinking about foods I’d like to have on-hand. That lead me to can some pork. It was the first time I had ever pressure canned anything and it was the best canned meat experience of my life. I’m here to share my experience.
- 1 Why Can Your Own Meat When You Could Just Buy It At The Store?
- 2 Canning Meat is Easy: Here’s How I Did It
- 2.1 Warning:
- 2.2 One Sentence Summary:
- 2.3 Step 1: Select Your Meat
- 2.4 Step 2: Trim the Meat
- 2.5 Step 3: Quick Render the Trimmed Fat
- 2.6 Step 4: Enjoy a Delicious Snack
- 2.7 Step 5: Cut up the Pork
- 2.8 Step 6: Brown the Meat In The Rendered Fat
- 2.9 Step 7: Heat the Jars
- 2.10 Step 8: Season the Pork
- 2.11 Step 9: Make and Heat Some Broth
- 2.12 Step 10: Fill the jars with pork.
- 2.13 Step 12: Close Them Up and Pressure Cook Them
- 2.14 Step 13: Cool the Jars
- 3 Results
- 4 Warnings I’ve Heard About Canning Fatty Meat, and What to Do About It
- 5 Next Up
Why Can Your Own Meat When You Could Just Buy It At The Store?
Reason one: You Can Select The Best Cuts For Canning and That makes all the Difference
There are some great canned meat products on the market. Some of them only have two ingredients, the meat and sea salt. I’ve talked about them Here, and Here. I highly recommend purchasing some but You will not find everything you might want, in canned meat, on the market.
Canning meat requires creating an environment that is completely sterile. It means killing both bacteria and fungus. This is a process that goes far beyond sanitizing water, to make it safe to drink, by boiling it for 10 minutes. It also goes beyond what it takes to can tomatoes or jelly. It means cooking food for an extended time, under pressure, to raise the temperature above the normal boiling point. In a pressure canner, under 10 pounds of pressure, water boils at 240 degrees instead of 212 degrees, at sea-level. There is no other cooking method, that can raise food to this temperature, with the exception of the very outside of food that can be browned or burnt.
I may be new to canning but I have 20 years of cooking experience and I grew up in a home with regular home cooked food, to boot. This experience has taught me, that not all foods can withstand the intensity of the pressure canning process and come out tasting good. Have you noticed how you never see broccoli in a can? I’m sure it exists but you never see it. The reason for this is that the energy, needed to sterilize broccoli, would destroy it. It would become a pile of mush. It would be mashed broccoli and it would be horrible.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, from broccoli, lie foods that are not destroyed by canning. Beans; (not green beans) such as pinto beans, great northern beans, and red beans; require so much energy to cook, that canned beans are indistinguishable from those you cook from dry. They are the perfect food for canning. The reason I own a pressure canner is not because I had planned to can food. I bought one to cook large batches of dried beans for chili and soup, that I used to freeze. You can see my pressure canner on Amazon here. I’m happy with mine, it’s served me for a long time, but there are better ones on the market. I plan to do detailed pressure canner reviews later.
In between broccoli and beans, are the rest of the foods you find in the canned goods isle, in the super market. These include the meats mentioned at the top of this section and green beans. Green beans take about 30 minutes at 212 degrees to cook. You can make fresh green beans taste and feel just like canned green beans, if you boil them longer. Some meats are quite delicate and are damaged by extended cooking. Fish comes to mind, as do lean cuts, such as eye of round.
Other meats actually require a great deal of cooking, in order to be sufficiently tender to eat. They are tougher cuts and have enough fat in them to keep them from drying out, when cooked for a long time. These are braising and stewing meats. Braising is a process of roasting meat slowly, so it doesn’t dry out when roasted for an extended time. The meat is covered and it sits in its own juice. Sometimes additional broth is added. Stewing is for the same purpose. Water is added and it is usually simmered on the stove. You can braise meat, add water, then make a stew with it.
You don’t test braising meats with a thermometer because they are always 212 degrees (the boiling point of the juice in them), when you pull them out of the oven. You test braised meat, for doneness, with a fork. You stab and pull. If the meat is done, you will be able to pull it apart with the fork. Because of the properties outlined above, braising meats are perfect for the pressure cooker and cooking them with a rapid jump to 240 degrees, instead of a slow rise to 212 degrees, only serves to speed up the process. If you want to make quick work of cooking one of these meats saute it and pressure cook it. Do it for the right amount of time and it will pass the fork test, every time.
Examples of braising/stewing meats include: Ribs, (beef or pork), pork shoulder, and chuck roast. All of these meats are sufficiently tough and fatty to withstand pressure cooking. I chose to can pork shoulder. I’m sure baby back ribs would taste excellent out of a can and sow would chuck roast. You could even BBQ the ribs before canning them (reversing the usual cooking order of braising, then grilling). The bones would take up a lot of space, though. I actually didn’t think about this before this moment and now I want to try it. Until next time. I had some other reasons to choose pork shoulder. They are delicious, cheap, huge hunks of meat that can fill many canning jars. They fill about 7-8 pint jars per roast.
Reason two: Jar size selection
I chose to can my meat in pint jars because I can eat a pint jar of meat in one sitting. This eliminates the leftover problem discussed In my last post. You may chose other sized jars for different reasons.
Reason Three: Cost and Quantity
It can be expensive to build of a stash of canned meat, from the grocery store. Cans of pork cost about $7 a can. It works out to $3.50 per pint jar. I got 25 jars worth of meat for $30, instead of $87. There is the investment in the jars but they can be reused and the lids are cheap. I would not have this many jars of meat, if I didn’t do this.
Canning Meat is Easy: Here’s How I Did It
This is not a complete recipe for canning meat. It’s simply me telling you about it. If you are going to can meat, be sure to read the instructions that came with your pressure canner, as well as a reputable canning publication. There are instructions outside the recipe itself. Don’t let that scare you though. It really is easy.
Amazon has multitudes of books on this topic. If you are a prepper, having a paper book is a good idea. They work when the power goes down. I bought one, months before canning, just to have on hand, in a grid down situation.
One Sentence Summary:
The number of steps below makes it seem complicated, so let me put the entire process in one sentence. You put browned pork in the jars, add some broth, put the lids on, and pressure cook it. That’s it.
I selected pork shoulder because it comes in giant packs, for not a lot of money and because I was more dissatisfied with the canned pork, I buy, than the canned beef. Warehouse stores sell pork shoulders in twin packs. Grocery stores usually sell them one at a time. I found I could get 7-8 pint jars of pork out of each roast. Two of mine had bones and one was boneless. The boneless are easier to cut up. The bone containing ones gave me something to eat later and some broth, because it’s difficult to trim all the raw meat off the bone, so I pressure cooked the meaty bone after removing most of the meat. That made for a delicious meal.
I put two canning jar rings on the picture, so you can see how large of a pack of meat that is. There are two roasts in that pack. It weighs 18.34 lb. and it cost $30.81. That’s at $1.68 a pound. I’ve seen pork shoulder, on sale, for as little as $0.99 a pound.
Pork Shoulder has one side that is covered in fat. This is pretty convenient for us. It is a source of oil for browning the meat. It’s great oil for cooking and it doesn’t cost you anything to buy. Trim that fat off of the outside of the meat, and cut it into small pieces, say, half an inch cuts. You can see a bit of that fat, in the picture with the price tag.
Put the fat pieces in a large skillet, over medium to medium high heat. You can add a bit of water, at this time, to speed the heating of the fat. Just be aware, it can explode later, if you heat the fat too hot. I wore safety glasses. You could forego the water, keep the heat lower, and wait longer. This process is faster than if you render lard for long term storage. It’s okay because you are going to use it, under heat, right away.
Once the fat is fully rendered, the solid chunks can be fried until brown. They make a delicious crunchy snack, similar to pork rinds. I added some salt.
Step five can start while step three, rendering, is taking place. Cut the pork into slices. Then cut the slices into small chunks. I did the cutting into small chucks while doing step 6. There was plenty time to do them at the same time.
You are not trying to cook the meat here. You just want to get a nice golden brown color on parts of it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly brown. The brown flavor will spread throughout the meat and broth.
I just threw my jars in the dishwasher and made sure the heated dry was turned on. The hot water rinse made sure they were clean and the heated dry kept them hot for an extended time. I have a small kitchen and the dishwasher also gave me a place to put them, out of the way, until I needed them. You aren’t trying to sterilize them. You just want them clean and hot. I did this during step 6.
There are a number of different ways to season pork. I used Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic, pepper, and pickling and canning salt. This step can be completely skipped, if you prefer to season later. The salt is also not needed for canning. If you do use salt, don’t use iodized salt. I’m told to be wary of using too much seasoning, because it grows in intensity, as the jars are stored. We’ll see how that works out for me, over time.
I made broth three different ways for this project. One way was that I saved it, in the freezer, last time I roasted pork. I trimmed the fat off the top and the particles off the bottom. Then warmed it up in a pot. The second way was, I took the water from pressure cooking the pork shoulder bones. The third way was, I took the drippings from the browned pork and added water to them. Then heated it back up, in a small pot.
Jam as much meat in there as you can fit, while leaving an inch of head space, or as I later did, an inch 1/4 of head space. See the section on warnings about canning fatty, below. You can measure heads space with this tool that comes with the Ball Canning Kit. You can see the kit on Amazon here, If you click on the picture, you can see the flat plastic device with notches. That’s your measurement tool. It has measurements on it. They sell the kit everywhere jars are sold.
The book said to use a ladle. I found this faster. Keep the head space in mind, when adding the broth.
Follow the instructions that came with your canner, and the canning book, on loading it, cook times, and cooling
Once cooled, remove the rings and check for seals. I learned that a little vinegar in the water, would prevent those calcium deposits from forming on the jars. Next time, I’ll do that.
The canned pork turned out delicious. This is the best canned meat experience of my life! The meat was tender with just the right texture. It had a great mouth feel and rich flavor. It was every bit of what you’d expect from braised pork shoulder. I prepared an entire prepper meal, featuring the pork, dried green beans with dried peppers and onions, and dried butternut squash. The dried veggies were from Harmony house. The peppers came from my Parents’ 2015 garden. I’m writing this in February 2017. The onions were minced ones from the grocery store. Amazon sells a plethora of Harmony house products.
Warnings I’ve Heard About Canning Fatty Meat, and What to Do About It
I have an usual group of prepared, kitchen savvy friends. The first thing I was told, when I said that I had canned pork shoulder, is that the pork fat could go rancid. When I read my canning book, (Amazon) it talked about fat. It says to go through steps to separate it and measure it in broth you use to can the meat in pg 98. The book makes no mention of using only lean meat to can. The very next recipe is for spareribs (interesting given what I said above.) I’m convinced. I’m doing ribs! Ribs are fatty, too.
Also, when searching around about buying canned meats, I found cans of bacon for sale. These cans of Yoders bacon contain 60 grams of fat in a 9 oz can. 9oz works out to 255 grams. So 60 that’s out of 255 grams is fat. That makes pork fat 24% of of everything in the can. Clearly pork fat is safe to can and can be shelf stable for 10 years, as the Yoders bacon is good for. So why would I be told it could go rancid?
This blogger, Jackie Clay, says “…if you leave too much fat on the meat, you run the risk of having some jars not seal because the fat gets between the lid and rim of the jar during processing.” If that happened, the meat would go rancid. She recommends lots of trimming. Blogger, Karen Johnson says, “When canning a fatty type of meat (like a pork roast) simmer it until it is cooked through. Allow it to cool and refrigerate it in the broth overnight. The next day you can skim off the fat before you reheat the meat to pack it. Be sure to reheat it! You don’t want to pack your jars with cold meat from the refrigerator. Reheat it and process as a hot pack.”
I followed none of the fat management steps in the book, or either of the two blogs. All 32 of my jars (I tried some before the batch in this post) sealed and so far, the meat is delicious. I believe cutting the fat adds to the work process. The idea of measuring it in the broth is too labor intensive, for my taste, and boiling the meat first also adds work. Further, boiling the meat first means more cook time. I found the meat was cooked perfectly, as it was, and wouldn’t want to extend the time. One thing I did do, was increase the head space, 1/4 inch over what the book recommended. This seemed to allow for greater fluid expansion by the fat, during the canning. Less oil escaped the jars during heating. I’ll update this post later, on how the meat holds up in the coming months.
There are a limited number of canned and dried veggies available on the market. I really feel like I have the meat nailed down but I think I will get bored of the veggie options I have. To help with this, I bought seeds and supplies for spouting and for growing microgreens. I live in a condo and only have one small window, with the right exposure, to grow the microgreens in. This is going to be a new experience for me, as well and setting up my grow operation will be the last step in preparing for my month with no fridge.