Why Yes! Yes I Did Can 40 lbs of Chicken… And Lived to Tell About It!

 

And you can too!  I’ll use the canned chicken for quick meals:  chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, chicken soups… the possibilities are many.  Here’s how it came about:

 

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If you’ve followed along, you likely noticed that life spun me around like a pair of socks in the dryer for the last two or three years.  I’ve had a lot going on and had not been able to get back ‘in the game’, so to speak.

During that time, I’d ordered 40 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breast from Zaycon Foods.  The delivery came mid-summer last year (or the year before?) and my good intentions for repackaging and handling this big bag of meat did not go as planned.

So, life changed once again – I switched to a different job, a new sector of industry – and I had four days of downtime in between.  Time to can some chicken!

I thawed the block overnight in a larger cooler (sorry, this is not the safest method and I’m not promoting it – just saying that’s how we roll around here, and I cannot recall the last time I had tummy ick).  Then I began the process… a hot vinegar bath for all of the jars and utensils, then cut the chicken into chunks and pack it into the jars, raw.

 

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Chicken can only be canned with a Pressure Canner.  If your canner does not have gauges on it then you need to step away from this sort of project.  Seriously.  You could kill yourself or someone else if you don’t use the proper canner.  Also – a pressure cooker is not the same thing as a pressure canner.  Use the right tools for the job.

For the sterilization step, I simply used tap water as hot as I could get it and added a quarter gallon of vinegar.  Each item was dipped and rinsed in the water and then set out for a quick dry.

These beautiful, functional jars are from Weck.  They’re my favorite for meat processing, as they are a much thicker glass than the standard canning jar – and they look so good on the shelf.

I have several of the Weck jars, but not quite enough for this project, so I filled in with good ol’ Ball jars.  Always add new metal tops when canning, and reuse any of the rings that are not rusty.  The Weck jars will need new rubber seals each time they’re used.

 

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While I packed the jars with the chicken chunks, I got the water into the canner and set it on the stove to heat.  It takes a while, so I knew I could get the jars in before the water was too hot to set cool jars into.

 

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With so much chicken to process, there was no way to do it all in one session.  I cut up and packed the first 20 lbs of chicken and got as many jars as was safe into the canner – a double stack.  As you can see, there is still a lot of chicken in the bowl, and more waiting over yonder in the sink… as shown in that second picture from the top.  It’s a good thing I started this project before noon.

 

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Instructions are so very important when canning.  Raw pack meats are going to go through an intense cooking process and the juices and pressure involved require that you leave a lot of space between the packed food and the top of the jar – head space.  This is for safety purposes, make certain you follow this step.

 

 

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Once the water was in the canner (see your instructions to make sure you’ve put sufficient water in your canner), and the jars were packed in, I was ready for the first batch.  Use a reputable source for the instructions, aided with the instruction booklet from your canner.  Quarts of raw pack chicken take 90 minutes processing time.  This is serious business folks – always follow the instructions to the letter when you’re canning foods.  Safety is key.

 

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In between batches, it’s important to allow the canner to cool and release pressure on its own.  Forcing the cool down will do serious damage to the canner, your kitchen or your body.  Be patient and allow for this down time.  Once the pressure has returned to zero, you are ready to pull out those steaming batches of canned goodness and start the next batch.

Take a serious cue from me and start waaaay before noon, not just before.  This is a time consuming process, but oh so very worth it in the long run.

Til’ later…

Dreamin’

 

Spring Garden Gallery

The back garden plot is finally on its way.  I hope to get the warm weather vegetables into the soil this weekend, as the cool veggies take the lead.

Interspersed with intentional planting are the allowed beneficial weeds:  lambsquarter, shepherd’s purse, henbit, dandelion and goatsbeard.  These serve to feed the pollinators as the vegetation and flora take their sweet time.

The permanent beds are built from a tilled space.  I rake trenched the pathways, then covered them with landscape cloth, old rug scraps and thick straw.  The beds have been lined with materials scavenged from both our yard and the neighboring lots, mostly tree limb scraps.  This keeps the beds from being overly compacted, gives me a clean and weed free path, and allows establishment of perennials.  I’m hoping that the trenched paths will also provide deep irrigation for the beds, as we’re likely to be in drought conditions again.

Edit:  The photos below have descriptions, which are best viewed in full format.  Simply click on a photo to activate the gallery.

I’ll post the front garden next…

Dreamin’

Garden Thoughts

Gearing up for Spring, and dreaming of gardens and growing and harvest, reality comes crashing in and sets the tone.  That reality washed over me as I posted my recent activity in my garden journal.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track what I plant and when and how it progresses, with notes to mark target dates, spacing and sunlight needs.  I use a new sheet for each garden year, copying the previous year and revising it to start the new season.

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Plot of garden spaces and containers, showing the sunlight by color

Distracted from this progress by a newly discovered idea, I had been engrossed in creating a garden plot on a separate sheet in the workbook and forgot to start my new tab.  Last night, I copied the tab – realizing that I was copying from the previously noted season of… 2011.

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Chart of plants and their needs with planting dates and progress notes, color coding left over from 2011

I’ve had a rough couple of years, and I was very aware of that fact.  I just hadn’t realized how drastically it had affected my garden plans until last night.

The past few months have been busy with bursts of organization, purging, and planning.  Activities that had been lacking for the most part during these years evidenced as missed tabs on my garden journal.

I was stirring last year, laying down a plot for a permanent garden, plotting about how to attract beneficial insects, and setting down ideas for permanent plants.  It’s time now.  Time to sink some roots.  Time to take hold of the time I have available and figure out how to do things I need to do.

Time to start gettin’ busy.

Dreamin’