It’s 5pm on a cold, windy winter’s day, and you’re just now thinking of dinner. The kids are already hungry and your spouse will be home in half an hour. Do you take a frozen lump of something out of the freezer and hurriedly try to thaw it in the microwave? Or perhaps just order Chinese takeout or pizza? Well…you could do those things. OR, you could simply walk to the canning shelf and select a jar of convenient, fully cooked, nutritious, delicious canned meat to serve as the base for the family meal. You open the jar – and dinner is on the table in a matter of minutes!
To many of us, canning brings visions of tomatoes, green beans and peaches to mind. But meat? Oh, yes! Canning meat is just as easy, economical and healthy as canning other foods, and requires the same basic equipment.
I recently spoke with a longtime employee of Lehman’s – incidentally, she’s our oil lamp expert – who’s canned meat for years. And when I say can, I do mean CAN! (She listed beef chunks, chicken, turkey, beef heart and tongue, beef stew, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce with hamburger, plain hamburger, venison, squirrel, rabbit – and those are just the ones I can remember…) Almost any type of meat can be canned – it just takes a little time and know-how.
Below is the gist of our conversation, so you readers can reap the benefits of her many years of experience!
Really Good Reasons to Can Meat:
- Money Saving! Whether you do your own butchering or purchase a large quantity of meat to can, you’ll save money in the long run.
- Convenient. Anytime you need meat, just grab a can off the shelf, heat and eat. There’s no running to the store, no waiting for frozen meat to thaw, etc.
- Space Saving and Energy Saving. Canned meat doesn’t require any special energy or space to store it – all it has to do is sit on a cool, dark shelf. A freezer only holds so much, and you have to pay to run that freezer and store the food, but canning lets you store as much meat as you want – you could literally fill your basement (although, unless you’re a family of 20, we don’t recommend it). For those living off the grid, canning is undoubtedly the best way to preserve and store food.
- You control the ingredients your family eats. You don’t have to worry about artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or other additives – what you put in the jar is all that will go into their mouths.
Three important things you need to get started:
- A Pressure Canner: This is the only USDA-approved way to can meat. In “the old days,” it may have been done in a water-bath canner or by other methods, but pressure canners are much safer because they regulate temperatures much better and seal steam-tight with NO gasket to crack, clean or burn.
- Wide-Mouth Canning Jars: Our resident expert highly recommends these European-style jars because they’re much easier to fill with meat, and also easier to clean after they’re emptied (meat residue or grease may need a bit more washing out than veggies would).
- A good reference: Lehman’s Best Pressure Canners come with a detailed owner’s manual including recipes and canning hints. Another good reference for meat specifically is The Canning- Freezing- Curing and Smoking of Meat- Fish & Game (232 pp).
Finally, if you don’t have time to can your own meat but still want to save money and have convenient meat on hand, check out Lehman’s selection of canned meats and meat broths, all minimally processed here in Ohio. Buy single cans or by the case. Bon appetit!