The meat has always been tender and delicious and it is so fast and easy to have on hand for meals! I can breast halves, or in shreds and chunks. You always have instant soups, casseroles, salads, skillet dishes or even finger-food at your fingertips on the pantry shelf! It is tender and delicious, NOT AT ALL mushy or odd textured. I also make it a point to can broth in this same process because it goes hand in hand with cooking the chicken. The canned chicken/turkey is also a wonderful tool to be able to make last minute meals to deliver to people in need or make quick delicious meals for unexpected guests or easy Preparations Days. It makes for a long day of work (because I do about 20 chickens at once when I do it. I have a few canners and several burners for the job), but it results in a pantry stocked with organic meat and broth for the coming season - Two things which are wonderfully wholesome staples. I just love that it is shelf stable, so I am not feeding the utility meter to keep the freezers running for my meat (especially in the hot summer) !
OK...enough Yappin - let me tell you how to do it.
Although my old friends do it over an open fire in a water bath canner because that is what their momma and grand momma always did) I use the recommendations for modern canning instructions since EVERYthing you read about processing meat says do it with a pressure canner. I do believe it is the safest way to preserve can it and I want to be sure I am storing my meat safely.
1. Preparing the Chicken/Turkey
- Put the rinsed chickens in a stock pot with 2tps salt per chicken (and up to 2T for a large turkey) and cover an inch or two above the bird with water. Bring the pot to boil, then cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for about 2 hours. If you like to add goodies(garlic, onions and herbs or veggies of choice) to your broth do it at this time.
- Carefully remove chicken from the stock pots and set aside to cool.
- Strain broth and wipe the stock pot if it has any film on it. Put strained broth back into the pot, and keep warm and simmering. It will cook down a little -- this will increase its flavor.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, debone it and set cleaned chicken pieces aside.
- Make sure your jars and lids are being sterilized -- check for cracks or chips on your rims. We put ours in boiling water together over the fire.
- Prepare your pressure canner as per factory instructions, make sure it is clean and ready to go and preheated.
- I like to can my chicken first, this keeps it from drying out, reduces bacteria issues and allows me to use broth in the canning process. (Although water could be used if you wanted to keep all your broth separate.)
- Get a little bowl of cheap white vinegar and some good paper towels and set near your jar filling area.
- Fill your jars, packing well and leaving 1" head space.
- Cover with broth (or water), by using a ladle and funnel. I hav also found athat a glass liquid measuring cup works very nicely too. I like to use a chopstick to get the bubbles /air out of the jars and make sure I have broth to the fill line. My mom always used to use a wooden spoon handle. They have little "air sticks" that often come in canning packs not too.
- Dip the paper towel into the vinegar and squeeze out excess. Use this to wipe your jar lip very well. The vinegar helps cut the grease. Be careful to use an unused part of the towel for each jar to ensure that you are not wiping grease ont he rim form one jar to the other. This will also increase your sealing ratio significantly. This is a trick that is well worth the effort. I rarely have unsealed jars.
- Put on your hot lids and rims (which don;t have to be hot/sterilized) and put them in your heated canner.
After all my chicken is processed, I can the remaining broth. This goes much faster..which is nice because it is usually at the end of the day...but hang in there! Its worth it!!! If you need to split it up into two days that is fine too. I can outside and do my meat in the fall and winter - so it is cool. I have just left a pot cover on the burner over night in the cool night air, then brought to boil in the morning and canned the broth the next day when doing very large batches.
- Pour hot broth in hot jars.
- Wipe the rims well with the white vinegar paper towels.
- Cap with hot lids and rims and put in the preheated canner.
* Additions which make good broth: a couple pieces of one or more of the following: Carrot, celery, turnip, onion, handful of fresh curly parsley, sage, salt, GARLIC. (Your favorite herb mixes) I knew someone who swore by Star anise, but I have yet to try it.
** Turkey is much easier to do! Because you have more meat for your work. I like to buy extra at Thanksgiving from my farmer, than can them after the holiday! We raised our own one year, but decided that we would buy them from other trusted farmers instead.
Checking seals: I let my jars sit over night on the counter and check the seals in the morning by removing the rims and tapping the tops to see that they are concave. I remove the rings and tug on the edges of each jar as I wash them and put them on the shelves without the rings. (My jars are always greasing o the outside from the canning process.) If the seal is flimsy, I want to know about it immediatly - because it will pop open, waste product and result in a stinky clean-up job. If the seal doesn't take, I put it in the fridge and use it in the next day or two for a meal.