Canning chicken is something our great-grandparents knew all about. Preserving game and surplus meat for the leaner months or for your prepping reserves is a technique that’s well worth getting to grips with.
Water Bath or Pressure Canner?
First, it’s worth noting that many of our ancestors canned chicken without pressure canners, using a crockpot and a rolling boil. Chicken is a low acid food and we know that canning it in this way carries a risk of botulism. Why? Well, simply because it’s not possible to replicate the temperatures needed to destroy any spores using a regular water bath method.
On the other hand, our grandparents usually lived to tell the tale, but it’s ultimately your call. If you have a pressure cooker or canner, then follow the instructions to the end of Step 3; then check the manufacturer’s guidance for cooking up the jars and take a look at the processing times from the USDA on home canning meats at different altitudes to check what applies to you.
Related: How To Preserve Beef in Glass Jars
It’s also worth taking your time and making doubly sure that everything is scrupulously clean.
- Fresh chicken
- Jars with lids/seals suitable for preserving at high temperatures
Sterilize your jars by putting them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher, or cleaning by hand in very hot water with detergent and drying in the oven. Use the jars while still hot. If you’re using a pressure canner, then the jars and lids must be completely clean, but not necessarily sterilized.
Chop your chicken into approximately 1-inch pieces, discarding any fatty parts and using only the lean white meat for canning. The carcass can be boiled for stock and stripped of the remaining meat for later use.
Pack the lean chicken pieces into ½ pint jars, pressing lightly and filling to within ¾ inch of the top of the jar, adding a very small amount of salt between layers.
You don’t need to add any liquid; the chicken will produce its own broth during the canning process.
Place into a stockpot deep enough to completely submerge the jars and fill with water. Note that if using a pressure canner, the jars usually don’t need to be submerged. Bring to the boil, cover and keep on a rolling simmer for two – three hours (a pressure canner will take less time), topping up the water when necessary.
Remove the jars carefully and check that the seal is intact. The contents of any jars that don’t have an intact seal should be used immediately, refrigerated for up to three days or frozen.
Chicken canned according to the water bath method should have a shelf life of 6 – 12 months when stored in a cool place, out of direct sunlight and preferably in a dark store. If you process the jars in a pressure canner, then you can look forward to a safe shelf life of up to two years or beyond when stored properly. Be sure to mark up your jars clearly with the date that the chicken was canned.
Whether you use a crockpot or pressure canner, when it comes to eating your supplies, discard any jars with a bulging lid; signs of discoloration; a foul smell or that doesn’t have that vacuum-packed whoosh when it finally gets opened. Many people like to reheat the meat thoroughly before eating as a further precaution.
Canning meat in a water bath is still practiced by many, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it should come with a health caution: remember that botulism is odorless, tasteless and potentially deadly!
If you choose to bottle your chucks without a pressure canner, then make sure that the process you follow is as safe as possible. Ultimately, it’s your call, chicken lovers!
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