Step-by-Step Guide to Home Canning Meat

How Long Will Home Canned Meat Last?

Step-by-Step Guide to Home Canning Meat

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I was hesitant about home canning meat, even though I had eaten my grandmother’s home-canned meat all my life. When we lost a whole freezer of meat due to power outages caused by Hurricane Katrina, I went back to her way of preserving meat.  

Home canning meat may seem intimidating, but the process is as simple as canning vegetables and fruits. For us, this is the easiest and best tasting of the meat preservation methods we’ve tried. 

Let’s get started by talking about a few tips on home canning meat. 

  • Start with quality meat. 
  • Start with meat chilled to 40 degrees F or less to prevent spoiling. This includes home-butchered meat. 
  • When doing any food preparation, including food preservation methods, start with a clean, sanitary workspace. 
  • Before you can any type of meat, remove as much gristle as possible and any bruised areas. Also, remove any excess fat, but not all of it. Healthy fats are not the enemy, but excess fat may cause sealing issues with your jars. 
  • A pressure canner MUST be used in home canning meat. Did I say MUST? This is due to meat’s low acidity. Boiling bath canners are fine for things like jellies and jams, but they’re not hot enough for canning meat. 
  • Decide if you want to use the raw pack method or the hot pack method.   
  • When canning wild game — venison, turkey, rabbit, etc. — some people brine it overnight in a solution of one tablespoon of salt per quart of water to remove some of the gamey flavor. 

Home Canning Meat Using the Raw Pack Method 

Step 1 – Be sure the meat you want to can is at least 40 degrees F. This applies to all meat: poultry, red meat, wild game, and pork. 

Step 2 – Remove as much gristle as possible and excess fat. 

Step 3 – Prepare the meat for canning depending on the type of meat: 

Red meats, pork, wild game (such as deer or elk) should be chopped into 1” cubes or ground into ground meat. Remember to cut meat against the grain to preserve tenderness. It’s not recommended to leave the bones in these meats. Instead, put them aside for home-canned broth. 

Poultry of any kind should be cut into pieces to fit your jars. You can leave the bones in or take them out. I leave them in for the flavor.  

Step 4 – Loosely pack your jars with raw meat being SURE to leave a 1 ¼” headspace. DO NOT add liquid. Add 1 teaspoon real salt to each quart. This is optional, however, salting food preservation methods have been used for centuries and real salt is necessary for health. 

Step 5 – With a clean, damp cloth, wipe the rims of jars to be sure they’re clean. Put the lids and rings on the jars and place them in your pressure canner. 

  • Pints process for 75 minutes 
  • Quarts process for 90 minutes 

Process pints and quarts under 10 pounds of pressure. We’ll look at altitude adjustment later on. When the processing time is complete, remove from heat and allow the pressure canner to fully vent before removing the lid. This should take about an hour. 

Remove jars from your pressure canner using a jar lifter or a heat-proof mitt. They will be HOT! Allow them to completely cool on your counter. The jar lids will pop as they seal. Oh, that wonderful sound! Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight. 

Home Canning Meat Using the Hot Pack Method 

The difference in the hot pack method is that you brown the meat before canning and you add liquid. 

Step 1 and Step 2 are the same as the raw pack method. 

Step 3 – Preparation of the meat depends on the type of meat you’re canning. 

Red meat, pork, and wild game need to be browned. Put the cubed or ground meat into a large pot turning continuously to thoroughly brown all sides. If the meat is lean, you may have to add a little fat of your choice to the pan. Remember to add just a little, you’re not cooking the meat, just browning it. 

Alternatively, the meat could be boiled or baked until it is about halfway done, a medium-rare.  

Step 4 – Loosely pack jars with browned meat being SURE to leave a 1 ¼” headspace. Add 1 teaspoon real salt per quart (optional). 

Step 5 – When using the hot pack method, you MUST add liquid. To do this, add water to the pot you browned the meat in. The amount of water depends on the number of jars you’re canning. 

Bring the water to a boil to loosen the bits of meat seared to the bottom of the pan. This adds delicious flavor to the meat. Add just enough boiling water to the filled jars being sure you leave a 1” headspace. 

Complete the same process from Step 5 forward in the raw pack method of home canning meat. 

Altitude Adjustments for Home Canning Meats 

Because air is thinner at higher altitudes, pressure levels need to be increased. Using the same pressure in altitudes above 1,000 feet as under 1,000 feet means food will spoil. Your local county extension office can help you. Here’s a standard guideline: 

How Long Will Home Canned Meat Last? 

For the best nutrition and quality, home-canned meat is best eaten within three to five years although it is edible for years longer. I know people who eat home-canned meat that’s over nine years old. You decide what you’re comfortable with. 

The principle of home canning meat is the same as home canning produce. You preserve what you have an excess of in season so it can be eaten when it’s not in season. I write the month and year on the jar to help ensure the older jars are eaten first. 

Home-canned meat can be eaten straight out of the jar, warmed up, or added to your favorite recipe because it’s already cooked. Talk about a fast meal! 

When you open a jar of any home-canned food, look at the lid and the contents. If you see any cloudiness, mold, or if you notice a foul smell, do not eat it. If in doubt, throw it out! 

So now you have all the information you need to get started with home canning meat. You’ll be so glad you did! 

Originally published in Countryside September/October 2021 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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