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A Simple Meat Canning Tutorial- In the Homestead Kitchen
Want to store enough meat to keep your family fed all winter? Short on freezer space? Busy schedule and weeknight meals are just too much? Not to write an infomercial for home meat canning, but it really is a great preservation project to tackle.Jump to Recipe
My Simple Meat Canning Tutorial
Believe it or not, canning meat at home can be one of the easiest ways to learn how to use a pressure canner.
This easy meat canning tutorial will be centered around canning plain, raw meat. This is known as cold pack or raw pack canning. You place the raw, cold (or at least room temperature) food in the jar before processing.
As far as meat canning is concerned, raw pack is the simplest way to go.
There are other meat canning methods too.
You can also can cooked meat, such as meatballs or sausage patties. They can be loaded into the jars hot or cold and processed.
Hot packing when meat canning would look like loading jars with hot soup or stew before processing. Alternatively, you could sear pieces of meat before packing jars- straight from the frying pan into the canner.
Whether you’ll be raw pack meat canning or hot pack meat canning, most of the process is the same.
The processing times are the same whether the meat is cooked or raw- 75 minutes in pint jars and 90 minutes in quart jars. Processing time is the amount of time that the jars are under the correct pressure for your elevation. The time it takes for the canner to come to pressure beforehand or depressurize afterwards doesn’t count towards the 75/90 minutes.
Why bother with canning meat at all?
As you’ll see throughout this meat canning tutorial, this is a very versatile process that yields jars of delicious food that can be used for many, many recipes and meals later on. Having home-canned meat on the shelf is going to save freezer space, and means that power outages or other failures won’t ruin all of your hard work.
Jars of meat are also totally cooked and won’t require thawing- they’re ready to eat as soon as you open the jar. This means that with just a little work meat canning in the fall, you can have a head start on your cooking and meal prepping all year.
Canning meat is also a great way to take advantage of deals and bulk buying opportunities with limited freezer space.
Ingredients for Basic Meat Canning
The only ingredients required for some at-home meat canning? Meat and salt.
But there are, of course, endless ways to can meat and meat-containing foods.
The most common meat canning around here is chicken. I use the canned chicken for quick weeknight meals, and I’ve come to rely on it as a way to make freezer space before we slaughter pigs in the fall. Canning chicken is as easy as cubing breast meat or putting raw drumsticks in jars, adding a little salt, and running the jars through the canner.
I’ve also had great luck with canning cubes of pork, cubed turkey meat, chicken wings, thighs, and whole breasts, venison, and even bacon.
Variations of Basic Home Meat Canning
Since there isn’t a hard and fast recipe for home meat canning, you can use this process for… pretty much anything you can imagine- whether that’s a flavor profile, cut of meat, or recipe.
For example, several times in the last few months, I’ve fired up the canner to process jars of leftover soup, stew, and spaghetti sauces. I follow the same canning process that I do when meat canning- easy peasy.
You could can cubes of venison, cubes of beef, cubes of pork…
Ground beef, ground venison, ground turkey…
Whole drumsticks, whole thighs, whole quail…
Bacon slices, breakfast sausage patties…
Chicken cubes in taco seasoning…
Ground beef and Italian seasoning…
Liver pate, head cheese, rilletttes…
Chicken soup base (broth, chicken, carrots, celery, onion)- just add noodles…
Pork stew (cubes of pork, potatoes, onion, carrots, apple + broth)….
Spaghetti sauce (tomato sauce + veg + ground beef)…
Goulash base (tomato sauce, ground beef, corn, olives, etc.)…
Meat balls (with or without sauce)…
My goal is to get the wheels turning in your head while proving my last point. Learning meat canning is going to open the doors of food preservation and preparation wide open. Run a batch or 2 of the “basic” raw pack, get familiar with the process- and then let your creativity fly.
Step by Step Meat Canning- A Simple Raw Pack Process
This is my super easy process for raw pack canning meat.
Step one is to gather my supplies. I need a cutting board, knife, jars, a canning funnel, lids & rings, the pressure canner, and a stock pot (technically optional). (This Presto 23 Qt pressure canner is my canner of choice and a total workhorse, going on a decade of use without issue)
Step 2- start dicing the meat of choice.
My most recent meat canning project was to clear up some freezer space before butchering our 3 pigs this winter. I put about a dozen whole chickens and 30 (ish) pounds of pork roasts into jars over the course of 3 days. (You can find directions on how to break down a whole chicken, written during that canning project, here. For more info on slaughtering chickens, yielding plenty of meat to can, you can read this post)
(An intermediate step may be thawing, or mostly thawing, out the meat you plan to can. If you’ll be canning ground meat or whole chicken parts, dicing isn’t required.)
Step 3, load the meat into your jars. Use the canning funnel and keep the rim of your jar clean. Leave at least 1” of headspace.
Step 4, add some salt to each jar. (About 1 tsp per quart jar, but adjust it to your taste) This is also where you’d add any other seasonings or broth or veggies if you want to. Whatever you add, make sure you still have at least that inch of headspace.
Next, add the lids and rings to your jars. Tighten the rings snugly.
I should mention here that many people suggest (or mandate) sterilizing your lids/rings/jars before canning. I don’t, and I don’t worry about it. The pressure canning process will get the jars/lids/everything hot enough, for long enough, to accomplish sterilization anyway. Start with clean lids and rings, yes, keep the kitchen and process clean, yes, but sterile? No.
With the jars and meat and everything ready to process, it’s time to load the canner. Make sure to place the rack in the bottom of your canner, and arrange the jars on top of it. It’s alright if the jars are touching. Add a second rack and more jars if your canner can handle it. (I can fit 2 rows of pint jars in my Presto 23 Qt canner, but only one row of quart jars)
By the way, you need at least 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars to run the pressure canner. I prefer to run a full load of jars (more efficient use of fuel & time), so if there is any extra space- add jars of beans or broth. Dried beans and meat canning have the same processing time, and broth will handle the longer processing time unscathed. (For full directions on canning dried beans, check out this post. For my method of canning broth, check out this post)
Once the jars are in place, add water as instructed in your canner’s instruction manual. (In my case, 3 quarts of water) Since this is raw, cold meat in cold jars, use cold or room temperature water- we don’t want to risk any thermal shock.
Place the lid on your canner, leaving off the weight. Make sure that the lid is locked in place, and then turn your stove on high.
After a few minutes, the water in your canner should be boiling and steam should be coming out of the vent. Let the steam vent for 10 minutes, this will allow the canner to be completely filled with steam.
After the 10 minutes of venting, add the weight.
Keep the stove up high, and watch the gauge. Once it has reached the correct weight for your elevation, turn the stove down slightly to maintain that pressure. At this point, start the timer for your processing time.
If canning pint jars, 75 minutes. Quart jars require 90 minutes.
Make sure to keep the pressure canner at the correct weight for the entire length of time.
Once you’re time’s up, turn off the stove. Let the canner depressurize and cool on its own.
After the canner has cooled, remove the lid. Use the jar lifter to move the (likely still very hot) jars to a towel-lined counter.
Let the jars sit on the counter overnight.
The next morning, remove the rings and check the seals of the jars. I check the seals by
Lifting upwards on the edge of the lid evenly. You can store the jars with or without the rings.
Label the jars with both the contents of the jars and the date processed.
Plan on your home-canned meat to last for 2 years or more.
Meat Canning FAQs
What is the processing time for pressure canning meat?
Your jars of meat need to be processed under pressure for 75 minutes for pint jars and 90 minutes for quart jars.
Can you can meat without a pressure cooker?
It depends on who you ask, but yes.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s page about canning and processing meat, “there are no safe options for canning these foods listed below in a boiling water canner.” (Link to their website here)
However, there are plenty of recipes that describe water bath canning low acid foods (including meat), written in Europe and in Amish cookbooks. The first Foxfire book includes a recipe for Brunswick stew and includes canning directions with a 90 minute boiling water processing time. Most of these recipes require 3 hours of processing time in the boiling water. The jars need to be fully submerged throughout the cook time, and the water must be boiling rapidly (which requires keeping a second pan or kettle of water boiling to fill your canning pot as water evaporates off).
All of that to say, you can find plenty of resources that will tell you how to water bath can low acid foods, such as meat. But it is faster, and honestly easier, to pressure can meat, so that’s my preferred method of meat canning.
How many jars do you need to run the pressure canner?
The minimum jar count to run a pressure canner is 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars. If you’re running so few jars at once, I’d strongly suggest filling more jars with dried beans or broth to make it worth the time and energy used.
What else can you can with meat?
As I’ve mentioned before, dried beans have the same processing time as meat. So they are a natural choice to fill the rest of the canner with. (Find my dried bean canning tutorial here) Broth has a much shorter processing time than meat, but it will be largely unaffected by the longer cook time, so you can can it simultaneously.
Most vegetables have significantly shorter processing times, and canning them for this longer length of time will result in over-cooked mush.
Can you can soup or a sauce with meat in it?
Absolutely. Whether that’s leftover soups/stews/sauces/etc, or a batch of ingredients put together specifically for canning, making meals in a jar is one of my favorite things to can. Being able to can meats with these various ingredients makes future meal prep so much faster and simpler. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Should I add broth or water to the meat?
It depends. What are you canning, and what will you use it for later on? Most meats canned raw will produce a significant amount of their own juice/broth/fat, and will stay moist and tender even after being stored on the shelf long term.
If you’re planning to pour the meat straight into a soup or crockpot, the extra little bit of water or broth can give you a head start on that meal.
So really it depends on your meat canning goals.
What can I use this canned meat for?
Everything. Most of the time, I use my home-canned meats for casseroles, soups, stews, chilis, stir fry, crockpot meals, and the like. I very rarely eat canned meat as the main focus of a meal. (Except for a little stint where I was eating home-canned, shredded chicken breast for breakfast…)
If you’re looking for a delicious way to use your home canned meat, I suggest a casserole such as this, “thrown together” leftover ham casserole.
Meat Canning- In Conclusion
Thank you so much for checking out my home meat canning tutorial. I hope that this has given you some inspiration and food for thought. Don’t be afraid to tackle meat canning yourself, I’m sure you’ll find that it’s going to open wide the doors of home food preservation.
I’d love to see how your canning projects turn out- tag me @EmigrantFarms on Instagram and let me know what you’re canning these days.
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
Canning Meat- A Simple Tutorial
- Pressure Cooker/Canner (I'll be using my trusty Presto 23Qt)
- Jars with Lids & RIngs
- Jar Lift, Canning Funnel
- Cutting board & Knife
- Meat This process will work for raw or cooked meat (or meat-containing foods), bone-in or boneless, etc. I'm canning pork and chicken here.
- Begin by cubing up the meat you plan to can. It does not need to be perfectly uniform, and as long as it fits into the jar it's okay.
- Using your canning funnel, pack the jars with meat. Leave at least 1" of headspace.
- Add 1/2 - 1tsp of salt to each jar (optional)
- Add the lids and rings, tightening firmly.
- Load your canner, arranging the jars as directed in your user manual. It is okay if they touch.
- Add water to your canner, as required. (3 quarts in my case)
- Add the lid to the canner, leaving off the weight. Turn the stove up to high.
- Once the canner has come to a boil it will begin to vent steam. After 10 minutes of consistent venting, add the weight and begin to watch the pressure gauge.
- Once the pressure gauge has reached the correct pressure for your elevation (12# here), turn the stove down slightly so it does not continue to build excess pressure.
- Allow the canner to cook and maintain that pressure:75 minutes for pint jars90 minutes for quart jars
- After the required time has passed, turn off the stove and let it depressurize on its own.
- Once the canner has cooled, you can remove the jars (using the jar lifter) and set them on a towel-covered counter to cool. After 12-24 hours, check the seals and label your jars. If any failed to seal they can be used right away.