The Damsel and her sister went completely insane and bought 40 pounds of turkey meat from a farmer. It had been cut off the bone, in great slabs of quivery raw meat.
The Damsel is a tentative carnivore. She eats meat happily, but doesn’t like to think about it too much. She likes it cut and shrinkwrapped on a little styrofoam tray, sort of unrecognizable, so she doesn’t have to think about what it used to be. Her favorite way to look at a piece of meat is on a plate at a restaurant.
Being faced with this great blob of turkey was difficult, but the sister petted and soothed the Damsel until the worst was over. They canned 21 quarts, plus a little for the freezer. And canning meat is pretty darn “old school.”
It’s really not that hard, no harder than regular canning. But to can meat, you MUST have a pressure canner, and you MUST follow the simple directions in order for it to be safe.
Put seven quart mason jars in the dishwasher (along with the breakfast dishes) while you:
. . . cut the meat. It’s up to you if you want it bite size, like the Damsel, or bigger hunks.
When your all finished cutting, perhaps the jars are finished washing. Stuff the meat in to the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of chicken bouillon into each jar, if you’d like. The Damsel likes.Here’s our handy headspace picture . . .
Put on the jar lids and rings, screwing the rings on finger-tight. Now it’s ready to process.
Put three inches or so of water in your pressure canner on to heat. Put the rack in the bottom (this keeps the jars from being in direct contact with the bottom of the pot, which can break the jars) and then the jars . . . seven will fit in one batch. Check the water level. It should be about up to the shoulders of the jars . . . where it starts to curve in. The jars shouldn’t be immersed as they are in a water-bath canner. Add or subtract water as necessary. Then put on the canner lid so it’s tight.
Adding a glug or two of vinegar to the water will keep the jars from getting cloudy during processing. Doesn’t affect the meat–just the look of the jars.
There is a gadget called a “petcock” that fits over the pressure canner’s steam valve. This shouldn’t be put on yet. Let the canner continue to heat until a steady plume of steam is coming from the valve. When the stream of steam is steady and plentiful, start counting ten minutes. Let the canner vent in this manner for ten minutes.
Now place the petcock over the steam vent. It should settle into place so that steam no longer escapes, but instead builds up pressure inside the canner. The Damsel admits she was scared when she did this the first time. Just be careful not to burn yourself.
Now it’s time to do a little quick google-fu. You need to find out how long you should process the jars, and at what pressure. This depends on your altitude, and whether you’ve used quarts or pints. There are plenty of charts online with this info, or you can call your local extension service. The Damsel lives at 4500 ft, so she processed for 90 minutes at 13 lbs. pressure.
Now you babysit the canner. Watch the dial carefully, and adjust the temperature on your stove up or down to maintain the correct pressure. Remember it takes time for stoves to react, especially electric ones. It’s better to have a little too high pressure than too low, but don’t let it get too high. Pressure canners can be dangerous if they aren’t watched.
A “cool” idea: the Damsel’s sister has this groovy campstove, so they did the canning outside. This worked out great, especially because it’s VERY HOT in the Damsel’s village at the moment, and a kitchen can become a sauna pretty fast after blowing hot steam for 10 straight minutes, and then 90 more minutes of hot, hot, hot.
When the 90 minutes of babysitting are over, remove the canner from the heat source and let it cool. You aren’t supposed to hasten it . . . just let the temperature drop naturally. It takes a while. The Damsel hates waiting, but there’s nothing for it.
Finally! A glimpse of the finished product. The turkey has formed its own broth. Take the jars from the canner and set in a non-drafty spot to finish cooling. Carefully check the rings. If they are really loose (this sometimes happens with the violence inside the pressure canner) you can retighten them gently, but it’s best to not disturb the lids as they begin forming the seal. After 24 hours, check the lids. If they are depressed, it’s sealed. If the middle bops up and down when you press on it, it isn’t sealed, and needs to be reprocessed or put in the fridge.
Now the hard part is trying to get yourself to open one of these babies and use it, because it’s so precious to you by now.