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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Canning Chicken / Turkey and Broth

Several years ago, in PA, I was doing my weekly pick-ups at our local organic farms that we used to buy from for the organic food buying club I owned/ran. I was friends with all my farmers. This particular one was a Mennonite family. Anyway, they had the biggest pot I had ever seen boiling on an open fire out side, so I started asking questions. They were canning chicken! This was such a foreign idea to me! I always thought of SPAM or mystery meat when it came to canned meat...YUCK! I asked about 20 questions! They were gracious to answer them all and I declared that I was going to try it one day. This woman had a large homeschooling family who was living off the land. I respected her greatly. There were DOING what I hoped to do one day. A couple years later I did try it and now I am hooked!

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.
2. While the Chicken is cooling (before deboning) and broth is simmering
  • 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.
3. Filling Jars
  • 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.
If you are under 2000 ft above sea level, process a qrt of chicken at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes or 15 pounds of pressure for 60 minutes. If you are higher than 2000 ft above sea level, check your canner manual for proper pressure setting.
Canning Broth
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.
  1. Pour hot broth in hot jars.
  2. Wipe the rims well with the white vinegar paper towels.
  3. Cap with hot lids and rims and put in the preheated canner.
If you are under 2000ft above sea level - Process Qrts at 10-11 pounds pressure for 25 minutes or pints for 20 minutes. If you are at a higher altitude, increase your pressure as directed by your canner manual.

* 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.


Andi said...

Pamela - this is very very helpful and I am really wanting to do this...now to get my hands on some chickens! ;0) And a pressure cooker.....arg. Thank you!

Mrs Johnson said...

Thank you so much for the tip of using white vinegar and a paper towel to wipe off the rim. I have canned stock before but had not thought to do this, and I'm sure it will help with the sealing. I was wondering how long you have kept stock on your pantry, and what do you think the shelf life is? I did a whole bunch a while back, and then it got to be summer and I wasn't making so much soup, and when I opened some in the fall it didn't really smell very fresh. Could you add a bit of powdered Vitamin C to help preserve it?

Mommy Set Free said...

Mrs. Johnson,
I think it would be find to add some vitamin C or some lemon. I wonder if my garlic was always helpful in that. (I always tend to put garlic in my broth.) Last year, when we moved, we keep some for the longest we ever had(it was packed and stored - it took a while to unpack it!) I think I had that 2 years. It was like new. Usually we use ours up in about a year though. We could use it up much faster if I weren't diligent to "ration it". :-)

Andy, Although I love to get meat from local farmers (which will hopefully be US one day!), I have also bought it in bulk from my coop or from the local butcher which results in good deals. :-) I have also been blessed to have a friend loan me a pressure canner before! :-) If we lived closer - you know I would HOOK YOU UP!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

And here I thought you had a bunch of chickens running around. LOL! Wouldn't be so bad one way or another (I would love to have a bunch myself!) This is wonderful and I'm happy to see it didn't turn at all "Spammy"! Now to get over feeling sorry about looking at a whole bird carcass (it has prevented me from completing many a dish). ;).

Mommy Set Free said...

We do have 21 chickens (according to last nights count...we count them we tuck them in at night.):-) They are our layers...however, it is inevitable tha they will make the pot one day! :-) I haven't wrapped my head around that rotation process yet. :-) I am hoping that we will start raising our own meat birds this year. You will surely hear about that if we do! :-)