I was chatting with a friend the other day about the price of food and the busyness of canning season. She confessed that she has been wasting a lot of money on take-out food as she has kids in several sports and spends a lot of time on the road. She said that, while she applauded my dedication to food preservation she could not see herself as ever having the time. That’s so interesting to me because I see food preservation as the biggest time and money saver in my life.
Two weeks ago I had a major score. A friend was butchering a Jersey bull and offered me the grass-fed beef for the unbelievable price of $5.00 a pound in exchange for some help with the packaging. I bought 20 pounds of hamburger and 30 pounds of stew beef. I would have gotten more but I wanted to can this rather than freeze it and 50 pounds is about my canning limit for a weekend.
Canning meat is about as easy as it comes. I wash the jars (no need to sterilize) and do a raw pack filling the jars with meat, onions slices and top off with a beef stock, load the canner and process as usual. You do need to be sure the water is just warm when you put the jars in to avoid any breakage. I process the quart jars at 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. I can plow through a lot of meat because I have three canners and an outdoor kitchen. I also have help from a willing husband and a (less willing) 12-year-old. The hamburger is fried with onions and seasoning just until the pink is gone and canned as usual.
It is an easy task to pour a jar of stew beef, a jar of stock, a jar of canned potatoes and a jar of canned carrots into a crock pot in the morning or pop it all in a Dutch oven that will cook on the back of your woodstove and come home after a busy day to stew ready for the table with just the addition of some cornstarch and milk to thicken the gravy. I use the hamburger to toss together Shepard’s pie, tacos or pasta sauce in minutes. The possibilities are endless. How about sweet and sour beef, chili, stroganoff or vegetable beef soup?
Even if you aren’t a canner, purchasing canned meat by the case will likely still provide healthier “fast food” for less money.