Friday, September 26, 2014

How To: Canning That Extra Chicken

First, You will need one of these. (Click for Amazon)
Previously, we discussed turning a chicken from one meal into several and it was pointed out (accurately) that while I mentioned the canning process I did not discuss it.  An omission to be rectified immediately.

Canning for long term storage is all about heat treatment and safety.  Safety while you work around the hot equipment and the hot stove, safety in ensuring you are using the right recipe for the right foods, safety, safety, safety.

It is possible to make yourself sick with improperly canned foods and it is possible to burn yourself while working with high temperatures and the stove top. Proper understanding, instruction, and due diligence are your responsibility. Protecting you and your family from accidents should be your number one priority. (continued)
A good reference, and one most start with.
With all that talk of safety, canning chicken is pretty easy. Canning itself is really just a process to safely ensure that nothing will spoil your food or poison you after sitting sealed in the jar for months at a time.  The vast majority of your standard spoilage microorganisms can be handled by simple pasteurization, a fairly low amount of heat for a fairly short amount of time will kill them.

The exception is Clostridium botulinum, the critter responsible for something you are more likely to have heard referred to as botulism. C.B. will survive to much higher temperatures than those other microorganisms and thrives in an airless environment like those inside your jars.  Canning, and the knowledge and equipment to do so is all about battling C.B. so that you need not worry about botulism, so that your food is safe to eat.

This is usually achieved in two ways.  One is acidity.  With a high enough acid content C.B. will die.  Recipes and foods with enough acids (like pickles, or tomatoes) can be canned without a pressure canner because the acid keeps C.B. at bay. The other option is pressure canning, which will be needed to can your extra chicken broth and meat. The pressure allows for temperatures higher than normally reached by boiling water, high enough to kill the C.B. spores in the food that do not have acid to keep them safe.

Before you begin you will always need to consult your reference.  I've included an image of the "Ball Book" which is considered to be a good source and very easy to use, click the image for details and reviews.  If there are special concerns or instructions for the food you plan to preserve you will want to note and follow them.  The amount of food, the recipe for that food, the size of the jars can all change the way you approach the processing.  Since microorganisms can live throughout your jar the entire jar must be raised to a temperature high enough, for long enough, to kill them all.  That's the whole game.

A jar loaded to the top with chicken meat will need to be processed longer because the heat will move thorough the food slower than if the jar was full of chicken broth only.  Because we are talking about specific temperatures and times it is easy to be safe following the instructions in your reference book and each recipe will have been tried and tested to ensure it is sufficient to do so safely.

  • Step 1: Consult your reference.

         As I alluded to before any special rules or steps should be noted and prepared for. Be sure you have the time to devote to that batch before you begin. I will not leave the pressure canner unattended as it can explode if pressures exceed safe levels.  Once you are familiar with your canner and it's function you may feel comfortable doing this, but it is almost never recommended.

  • Step 2: Prepare your equipment.

         This includes rinsing out your jars, sterilizing them if needed and usually heating/cooking the food. Dry jars in an oven set for 225° F for 10 minutes will do the job.  Damp jars you can start timing when they dry. There will be instructions for operating your pressure canner included with it, follow them. Usually this is only making sure the proper vent holes and safety mechanisms are clear and working and adding a little water before setting it on the stove.

  • Step 3: Filling Jars. 
         Your warm, sterile, jars are ready to place your hot food into.  Broth brought to a simmer, chicken meat fully cooked, in other words hot food cooked so it will not have any extra bad microorganisms hitching a ride. If your food is cold it should be heated again before canning and go into the jars hot (unless your recipe instructs otherwise which is rare, but may occur).  Your reference will recommend a certain amount of "head space". Be sure to leave enough room between the food and the top of the jar for this. Place your clean lids and lid rings on the jars as soon as they are full, hand tight only and then place in the pressure canner. The pressure canner pictured above will hold 7 quart jars, larger may handle more.
  • Step 4: Canning.
        With the jars filled and the canner loaded all that is left is to let her cook.  How to place the lid on your canner, adding and maintaining pressure, and any extra safety considerations can be found in the instructions for the canner you purchase.  Usually, you will be screwing on the lid, turning up the heat, watching for the steam, adding the weights (which control the pressure) and starting your timer. We process broth for 25 minutes per quart at 10 lbs. pressure and boneless chicken (bone-in is different) for 1 hour 30 minutes per quart at 10 lbs. pressure.
  • Step 5: Removal.
        As soon as the timer has finished you will want to (gently) remove the canner from the stove to someplace it can rest and cool.  Until the internal pressure has dropped it is not safe to open you will explode jars if you try and probably burn yourself.  When it is safe to open care is still needed as the contents will still be hot.  I will then remove the jars so they can cool outside the canner and if there are more quarts ready for processing I can begin loading the canner for round 2.

Cans of broth or chicken will be good for about a year. I've seen them last longer, and I've seen them go bad sooner so your mileage may vary.  Trust your nose and don't eat anything if you aren't certain it is safe. It goes without saying but also bears repeating ALWAYS following the instructions in your canning reference guide and ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's maintenance and use instructions on your canner.

If you can do that, this is all very easy.  Thanks for stopping by.


  1. There is an extra s in the following sentance. "Before you begin you will always needs to consult your reference." There "needs" to be one less. (see what I did there?)
    Feel Free to delet this comment after the error is corrected. Oh yea I did enjoy reading it. I hope to need to reference it next year.