Part of being prepared – and independent – is assuming a number of different negative events will happen, and being prepared for each of them. One of the great ways to prepare for an extended power outage is to home can food. Whatever gets canned gets fully cooked and can be consumed without further preparation.
Veggies, soups, stews and meats are some of the favorites. If your power goes out, the food in your refrigerator and freezer may be lost to spoilage. Not so with canned foods.
For me, one of the drawbacks to canning meat is the texture. Regardless of the meat – pork, beef, poultry or fish – it ends up with a flaky texture. Think tuna fish in a can.
This is OK for most applications, but can get a bit tiresome. One way to beat that food boredom is by making your own burger meat and doing some pre-cooking. The texture of the meat after canning retains the “springy” texture of cooked burger, and is a nice change from standard canned meats.
I recently got a great deal on some pork. Here’s how I turned it into home canned storage –
I started with a 21 pound portion. I boned the piece and ended up with 14 pounds of meat and fat.
With any kind of meat canning, I firmly believe that you want to cover the meat in the jar with a fluid. Some folks just add water and a bit of salt. I like adding a broth or stock.
I took the bones from the pieces, and boiled them up with salt and a couple of bay leaves.
I let these bones come to a boil. I skimmed off the fat and flotsam, and kept it at the ready.
The slabs of meat were cut into small pieces that were able to fit into my meat grinder. I then ground up the meat to make my own burger.
When you’re canning meat, you can do it hot- or cold-packed. With cold-packed, you just add the chunked meat to your jars – about 1 pound per pint – cover with your liquid (3/4 inch head space), then pressure can the meat (I go 10 lbs pressure for 75 minutes for pints).
Hot-packed is basically the same process, but you’re adding cooked meat. When I make burger, I ALWAYS use hot-packed, as it is way too easy for the inner-most burger to not be fully cooked because of the compact nature of the meat.
I took my 14 pounds of burger and cooked it up in 3-4 pound batches.
I SLIGHTLY undercook the meat. I’m not browning it, I’m really just rendering some of the fat off.
I then take each batch of cooked meat and put it in a collander in the sink. I do this to let as much fat run off as is possible. If I were in an emergency situation, I would skip this step, as I would want to retain the fat.
As you’ll see later, a good amount of the fat is still retained. After I cooked up all of the meat, my 14 pounds of meat and fat had turned into 11 pound of cooked pork. That means my original boned meat was about an 80/20 mixture.
Before I packed the meat, I wanted to turn it into a quasi-Italian Sausage. I went to my recipe bin and added the following ingredients. Please note that this recipe is for 5 pound batches. Since I started with 14 pounds – or 3 recipe’s worth – I tripled the recipe, NOT doubled it for the 11 pounds of post-cooking weight.
Italian Sausage recipe for 5 pounds of raw pork –
3T fresh garlic, minced
1T ground black pepper
3T fennel seeds, roughly ground
3T dried parsley flakes
2T red pepper flakes
This makes a nice, VERY spicy Italian sausage. Try it with two TEASPOONS of red pepper flakes for one with just a bit of a “bite”. When I make this sausage raw and stuff it into casings, I also add 1/2 cup of grated Romano cheese, and 1 cup of water. It’s a great sausage!
Back to the canning:
I filled each pint with the ground sausage mixture – about 3/4 pound worth, cooked – and covered it with the pork stock I had made earlier. I went to within 3/4 inches of the lip of the jar.
I lidded everything up, did the 10 lbs pressure for 75 minutes gig, and viola! – home canned ground sausage.
After the jars cooled, I still got a “cap” of fat that rose to the top of the jars. I’m OK with that, as it adds additional flavor to this sausage.
As mentioned earlier, don’t assume your fridge and freezer will always be working. Home canning meat is a great way to do some long-term storage while not having to worry about keeping the meat refrigerated.
Be sure to check all of the lids for a proper seal after they’ve cooled! With the fat in the meat, you will sometimes get some on the rim and not get a good seal. One of my jars failed to seal, so it went into a lasagna the next day.
BTW, you may be thinking, “Why didn’t he just buy ground pork or beef instead of boning the meat himself?” Two reasons.
First, I know EXACTLY what is in my burger because I “produced” it myself. No snouts, ears or other parts that might find their way into commercially ground meat.
Secondly, price. I bought the pork for $1 per pound ($21). After boning it, I had 14 lbs remaining, so the cost-per-pound was $1.50. The commercially ground pork at the store was $1.99/lb, so I saved seven bucks. Not retirement money, but every little bit counts!