I love my 1974 Presto Canner, even though I confess that I once was afraid of her. As of this writing, she’s staring down middle age. Yet, she still holds 20+ quarts of water and can process 16+ pints of goodness. However, the most I have ever done is 10 pints or seven quarts.
I bought Ms. Canner (as a child of the 80’s she goes by Ms.) in California 15 years ago from a Craigslist ad—the first time I ever went on Craigslist. I drove to a suburban development in Modesto, CA. The lady who sold it to me told me she rarely used it and wanted to free up space in her garage (OK, 2 cubic feet?). I got the canner, rack, manuals, and box covered with dust for $40. As I drove away, I actually thought I was being rather nutty.
Poor Ms. Canner. Her glass covering on the pressure dial broke once when I moved her around in the pantry, and her rubber seal cracked. I replaced the rubber gasket, but was unable to repair the pressure gauge face. So she is kind of old and neglected looking, but she has a lot of life left in her.
I watch videos about home pressure canning, and I see these awesome All American Canners with 6 screws to tighten down the lid. I have no screws—just a rotated lid. I sometimes wonder if I will turn my kitchen into a crime scene.
I have canned broth and low acid vegetables in Ms. Canner over the years. Yet, I had never canned meat.
Fast forward to this week. My freezer was stuffed, and I was eyeing some organic, free range turkey at the grocery store. So, I broke down and bought the turkey with the intention of a canning adventure!
I opted to de-bone the turkey and can chunks of light and dark meat together, with the bones used to make broth. I pre-cooked the turkey, rather than do raw pack. Why? From my research, raw pack used no added liquid and could result in jars that had meat exposed and somewhat dry. Cooked meat recipes appeared to be more reliable in terms of liquid in the jars, and they were reputed to taste better. So, I lightly roasted my turkey parts (160 F internal temp), cooled them, took off the skin, and then cut them into bite sized pieces.
Pro Tip: For the drumsticks: prior to cooking, cut the knob off the lower (foot end) leg. Grab your pliers and pull the tendons out before cooking to make cutting the meat easier. (This is easier said than done.) Oh yeah, the wing parts are not worth trying to can, so use them in broth or roast the bigger parts for an awesome dinner.
Additional Pro Tip: I took the tenderloins off the breasts and saved those, as I thought they would be overcooked in this endeavor. (I actually pounded them into cutlets and froze them.)
After roasting the big breasts, thighs and drums to 160 F (internal temperature read on meat thermometer), let them the rest. I let them come to room temperature before deboning and deskinning. Broth was already underway in the InstantPot. (Make broth any way you like. Check out these ideas.)
Putting into jars: lightly arrange the meat in the jars. Do not pack tightly. I added 1 T dehydrated leeks and ¼ t dehydrated garlic to half the jars. To all the jars I added 1 t of kosher salt. Then I added broth to top off. Leave 1 ¼ inch of space between the jar and the lid. This is crucial, especially if you just barely cook your chicken to doneness like I did, as the meat will increase the liquid during canning. Follow your canner’s directions exactly about the amount of water to add to the canner and the time to exhaust. There are different types of pressure canners. I am giving the directions for my weighted/pressure gauge canner.
Process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (at sea level). Add 1 pound of pressure for every 1,000 feet above sea level. We are at 2,200 feet above sea level, so I processed this for 75 minutes at 12+ pounds of pressure. You may want to check with your local university extension service for more precise directions. You cannot water bath can meat.
When the cooking time is up, turn off heat and let the pot come down to 0 pressure. Do not move the pot! You can then release the pressure valve and open the top once the pressure gauge reads 0. However, let the jars sit in the canner for at least 30 minutes before removing them. They may continue to boil internally for a half hour or more! If and when you do remove them, place them on a folded kitchen towel to avoid any sudden temperature changes. Frankly, you need not do much with them, and can even leave them in your open canner overnight.
When sealed and cooled (like the next day), remove rings and observe whether the lids are compressed and tight. Store without the rings in a cool/moderate pantry for 1-3 years. I’ve heard of people using canned meats 10+ years, but these won’t last that long before you break into them.
When your meat cools, any fats will rise to the top and look yucky. Do not fret. You can skim this off for other uses after opening your jar or simply incorporate it into your dish. It is delicious. If you research pressure canned meat on the internet, you will see some pretty gnarly looking products. Be not afraid. It will all be fine even if ugly.
Why would I can meat? We have an entire freezer full of meat, but in the event of a power outage we would want shelf-stable meat. This was my experiment in turning meat into a shelf-stable product. Plus, I hear it is pretty tasty! (Update: it was awesome! I made turkey chili first with it.)
How long will it last? Most guidance is to eat the food in a year. If properly canned and stored, it will last longer, but it may degrade in color, texture and nutrition. I’ve had meat for several years, and it is still tasty as long as it has a proper seal and is not rusted.
Post Script: broth can be pressure canned at same pressure for only 20 minutes.