You can enjoy home-canned meats any time of year by learning how to preserve them properly. Canning meat is a great way to make use of special coupons and deals, as well as to save space in your freezer. Canning your own chicken is also healthier, especially if you raise your own broiler chickens on the homestead. Join us as we go through the steps of canning fresh chicken.
To learn more about the various points there are to ponder on raising your own meat animals, be sure to pick up our book The Do It Yourself Homestead – there’s a whole section on this topic! With 400 pages of homesteading information presented on four different levels of homesteading experience, you’re bound to find a lot of other projects and goals, as well. There are four different livestock sections – would you like to read one of them? Just email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com
If you’re only interested in home-canned meat information, scroll down to that section. The first part of this article is for those who grow their own broiler chickens to use for canning meat for the year.
Homestead chicken isn’t like the chicken you find in the store. For one thing, it’s not pumped full of saline solution to make it look bigger than it actually is. Though taste is relative to each person, I think homegrown meat tastes more like chicken and less like plastic.
Even eggs from homestead hens are different from those you find in the store. Although The Washington Post will tell you they taste the same, homegrown eggs typically have a higher nutrient content than store bought simply because of how they’re fed and allowed to dig in the dirt. Mother Earth News can break down the differences for you here.
Here are a few more benefits to homegrown chicken:
- Even if you disregard nutrition, homegrown eggs and fryers are fresh!
- Chicken raised on your homestead to become meat has a life history that you’re familiar with and a feed history that you’ve personally sanctioned.
- You KNOW what’s gone into your chicken dinner because you’ve been a part of that chicken’s life cycle.
Canned Meat: Homestead Chicken
Once you’ve raised up a flock of fryers in the healthiest way possible, there comes a time when you need to butcher them. In the past, I’ve frozen all of our fryer harvests. We’d butcher 30-50 at one time, though, and often I would run out of room in the freezer.
Why Can Meat?
Despite saving room in the freezer, another practical reason for canning meat is that it’s convenient. As Ann Acetta-Scott points out in her book, Preserving the Harvest,
“The ability to produce a ready-made item is a necessity for many busy modern homesteaders. A ready and quick meal may consist of combining canned meat with a side of fried eggs and a vegetable from the garden, or the canned meat can be used for making an “instant” soup. Not to mention, canned meat is excellent to use when the power goes out. …Additionally, canned meat can be taken camping, hunting, or on road trips for convenience.”
To learn to can meat (or any other food preservation method you can think of), be sure find Ann’s book on Amazon or click below:
Online Learning Resource for Canning Chicken
Sharon at Simply Canning will be able to help you with anything you’d like to learn to put up. On her website, I looked up how to raw pack chicken – here. You can also pre-cook meat before you can it (which is called “hot pack”). She haas a lot of wonderful free content on her site.
To learn even more from Sharon, I suggest you try her FREE workshop on using a pressure canner (which you’ll need for meat) – which you can access here.
She also has a paid course, which you can access below, if you’re serious about learning how to can this year.
I can’t improve on Sharon’s advice but here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re pressure canning meat your homegrown chicken.
Tips for Pressure Canning Meat – Chicken
If you’ve grown it yourself, you may also have butchered the chicken yourself. You’re going to be really sick of dead chicken by the time you get to canning it, if you’re like me. Here are a few tips for preparing your home-butchered chicken.
- After your newly harvested birds have had about 24-48 hours to mellow in a refrigerator, you’ll need to get them canned up quickly to keep them fresh and bacteria free. Make sure you’ve cleared your schedule not just for the butchering, but also for the canning. And making bone broth, if you’re going to do that – more on that in a minute. Brace yourself to get it done as fast as possible.
- If you can find one, get a friend to come over to make the canning process more fun and to help it go a bit faster.
- From start to finish, with my pressure canner, it takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours for 7 quarts of chicken (one batch). You can only do so many batches in one day, so plan accordingly.
- Make sure you’ve re-sharpened your knives from butchering, unless you’re lucky enough to have several sets of sharp knives. Use the absolute best knives you have because you’re going to be doing A LOT of cutting. Sharpen them before you’re sitting in front of ten birds that needs to be butchered asap.
Butchering the Meat for Canning
- To learn how to easily cut up a chicken, follow this link. Don’t hack at it; learn to cut it apart at the joints and save yourself a lot of work and cramped hands. I do keep a small hatchet close by for chicken bones and joints that just don’t want to come apart easily, but I don’t have to use it that often.
- I took the skin off for the meat I canned because there’s nothing more gross than soggy chicken skin. Ew. Some I gave to the pigs and dog but most of it I tossed into my crock pots along with extra bones and fat to make broth.
Can You Preserve Meat on the Bone?
You can but you don’t have to. Here are the details of what I did:
- I left all the meat on the bones except the breasts so that I could fit, on average, one chicken per quart jar.
- Also, I wanted the bones in with the meat to create good gelatin and broth.
- So, I put the wings, thighs and legs into the jar with the bone.
- I cut the breasts free and put them into the quart jar whole.
You don’t need to fill the jars with water because the chicken makes its own broth in the canner.
Make Broth with the Rest
I have two crock-pots that run non-stop for several days processing all the extra bones and fats into nourishing broth. However, there’s no way I can keep up with all the breast and back bones I have left over. I could store them in my freezer for making into broth later. However, it’s just as easy to can them.
Here’s what I do:
- I can the neck bones, back bones and as many breast bones as I can fit into quart jars.
- These bone jars I fill with water to about an inch below the rim. Along with preserving the bones for a later date to make more broth with, you get an initial quart of broth just in the preservation process.
Sharon mentioned that her bones came out soft and crumbly when she canned them. Mine are all still strong and I know I have at least one, maybe two batches of Crockpot broth left in them.
(I usually get three batches of broth from one batch of chicken bones by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the second and third batches. It’s thinner broth, but still nourishing. Then I give the bones remnant to the pigs.)
I’m not sure why my canned bones are still hard while Sharon’s are soft, since I follow her instructions for canning – maybe a difference in chicken feed?
Home-Canned Chicken Taste
Home-canned chicken is creamier than commercially-canned chicken. I don’t know how else to describe it. Its texture is soft and the flavor is rich.
It makes killer chicken salad sandwiches, but you can also add it to soups or casseroles on busy nights. I’m love having it in the warmer months so that I can add a touch of protein to our summer meals without having to heat up the house. Plus, we use bone broth medicinally and I’ll be so glad to have broth on hand whenever I need it without having to cook up a whole chicken just to get it!
Do you do home canned meat? Have a favorite? Share some recipes, if you have them, on your favorite things to make with canned chicken.
Don’t be limited by chicken, if you’re new to canning meat. For example, you can preserve venison by following these instructions from Schneider Peeps.