Whenever I preserve my own food I admit to having a nostalgic “Little House on the Prairie” moment. For some reason canning appeals to me on some deep, visceral level. It’s a bit of that whole DIY ethos-I’m using my own two hands to create something I can see and feel and taste. It’s a satisfying feeling you can’t get from folding a pile of laundry, doing the dishes or cooking a meal. When those tasks are done all you have to do is blink and they are waiting to be done again. It’s endless and thankless.
Canning is concrete. I have something to SHOW for an afternoon of work. And the sound of those canning jars “ping-ing” as they cool on the counter? Let’s just say it’s the sound of success.
I didn’t grow up in a household that canned, so I’ve had to teach myself over the years. I’ve tried and had good success with hot water bath canning. It’s a simple process that’s been used for a long, long time. All you need (well, besides the cans & lids) is a pot deep enough to cover the cans with about an inch to spare. Most of the time your spaghetti pot will do!
But hot water bath canning is limiting. You can only can certain foodstuffs since the temperatures can only get so high. In order to create a little world inside a jar that is inhospitable to bacteria (trust me, you don’t want to create a little bacteria condo in a jar!) foods have to be limited to those high in acid (pickles & tomatoes) or those high in sugar (fruits or jams).
To can anything else-green beans, carrots, corn, soups, chilis, meat-you need to use a pressure canner*. I have wanted a pressure canner for a long time, but they are pretty expensive. So I was thrilled when Yankee Bill got me this canner last April for my birthday:
I took it out of the box. I ohhed and ahhhed over it. I read the instruction manual front to back.
Then I put it down in the basement and didn’t touch it again until this Sunday.
I know, I know. But I was scared. I mean back in the old days pressure canners used to occasionally explode. Yes, you read that right-EXPLODE.
The new ones are supposed to be much safer, but they do come with warnings like this one:
Well, after Yankee Bill shot his 3rd deer, we figured we were running out of freezer space. There was still venison left in the freezer from last year (vacuum sealed) so we decided to thaw that and try canning it to free up space for the newer meat.
I admit to a great deal of trepidation, which Yankee Bill capitalized on. I mean really-was it necessary to tease me quite so many times about explosions? All in all though, the process wasn’t too bad.
The bare basics are this. You cube up your meat, around 1″ chunks. Then you pack them into clean jars (we added a bullion cube to each) leaving 1″ of headspace. You don’t have to brown it or add water. Then can at 10lbs of pressure for 90 minutes.
Viola! Canned meat!
Of course we have no idea how it tastes yet-we’ll have to crack open a can soon and see
If you want to see more pictures, check out my Whrrl Story:
Have you ever canned any kind of meat?
*yes, I know that our grandmothers used to do it all with hot water bath canners. The FDA does not recommend it and I’m not willing to take a chance with my family’s health. You read up on it all and make your own choice.