Safe Preserving: Canning Meat

A winter meal of beef stew featuring home-canned meat can be a family-favorite. There are several tips that will help ensure that the meat that you preserve is safe for you and your family. beef stew

  • Start with high quality meat. Preserve only those meats that have been handled under sanitary conditions. Choose meat that has been properly butchered and has been kept cold. Canning is no remedy for spoilage!
  • Use lean meat. The best quality will be achieved with lean cuts of beef, venison, and poultry. Trims as much fat as possible from beef or venison, and remove excess fat from poultry. Trim away areas of bruising or heavy gristle. Avoid consuming the area of a deer carcass where the bullet or arrow entered. Small game and poultry may be canned with, or without, bones.
  • Process using  a pressure canner. Meat, wild game, poultry and fish are all low-acid foods and must be canned in a pressure canner to avoid botulism poisoning.
  • Follow a tested recipe. Use only the jar size and packing style listed. Canning at home does not allow for creativity – the health of your family is at stake! Avoid using untested methods for canning meat such as water bath canning, open-kettle canning, or oven canning. All these methods are very unsafe!
  • Adjust for elevation. Meat and other low-acid foods are processed in a dial-gauge pressure canner at 11 psi (pounds of pressure); in a weighted gauge canner at 10 psi up to 1,000 feet elevation and at 15 psi at elevations in the state over 1,000 feet. A web site can be used to find the elevation of any address in the world.
  • Do not thicken soup or add pasta, rice, or fat. Thickening a broth or adding pasta, rice, flour or fat can interfere with heat transfer and lead to under-processing. Adding fat can also interfere with jar sealing. You may however safely can meat without added salt, and you may safely add seasoning such as a garlic clove, onion, or herbs to each jar.

Because meat processing times are rather lengthy, mixtures of meat and vegetables such as carrots or potatoes may be canned as long as the longest processing time is followed. Take care to carefully select mixtures, or quality will suffer.  Maximum flexibility actually comes from canning individual items such as peas, potatoes, carrots and meat separately and then combining a jar of each into a stew. In this way, each item is processed to ensure safety (but not over-processed) and all the broth/liquid melds to provide wonderful flavor.

Research-tested, up-to-date recipes can be found in the University of Wisconsin Extension’s publication Canning Meat, Wild Game, Poultry and Fish Safely, or from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

More information on preserving meat at home is in the webinar on this topic.

Safe preserving! Barb