Canning Protein, by Taressa

Home food preservation is an important part of my food storage program.  I decided that if it can be sold in a can in the store, then I should be able to put it up myself, in jars.  I buy dry goods such as rice, pasta, potato flakes and dry beans and use a canner to store them in large #10 cans, as well as vacuum sealing with the “FoodSaver” jar lid port.  I’ve also hit a few sales after the holidays to buy a supply of candy to vacuum seal in jars for a time when a little comfort food will go a long way.  Perhaps the most important instrument in my families food storage program is my pressure cooker/canner.  I found one on sale a few years ago at Wal-Mart after the canning season and bought one for my daughter and one for myself.  I had been canning jelly for many years in a boiling water bath, but had not tried to use the pressure cooker/canner until last year.  I had a friend who has been canning for years to teach me to put up meat in canning jars.  Since then, I will usually check the mark down meats at the local market and will sometimes catch the chicken or hamburger marked down 50% because it is nearing it’s expiration date.  I buy all the skinless, boneless chicken they have, and I bring it home and can it for later. This also works well with putting up ground beef.

Years ago, when I was a young teen, my grandmother would get me up at 5:00 am to go out and help her pick the garden.  We live in the south where there is never a time it isn’t humid and sticky, but especially during the late spring and summer months of the year.  She would have me wear one of her long sleeve cotton shirts, long baggy pants, sock, sneaker or boots, gloves and a wide brim hat.  We were quite a site, but there wasn’t anyone to see us that early in the morning.  We would pick squash, cucumbers, corn, peas, and butter beans.  It wasn’t so bad having to pick the squash, we would just wash them and eat them…mostly fried, but sometimes stewed with onions.  But the cucumbers had to be put up as pickles, the corn had to be shucked, blanched and scraped for cream corn, and those peas and butter beans had to be shelled.  All day we would sit and shell those peas, and then that evening she would have me help her ‘put them up’ as she called canning. During the summer we would also have to ’go down the road’ and pick some berries.  Now grandma would give me a bucket that was about as big as I was, and tell me to fill it up, usually with black berries.  When I’d get home several hours later, we would wash those berries, boil them and then mash them and make jelly out of the berry juice. I tell you all this so you can see that I have been around canning most of my life, but until last year, I didn’t know you could can meat.  My grandma never did can meat.  Meat was always hung in the smoke house out back.  But not anymore. Now, it goes in a jar on one of my many shelves of canned protein. I didn’t like it that my two younger sisters never had to help with this grueling process, but today I am the only grandchild (out of 32) who knows how and enjoys canning fruit, vegetables, and meat.  I am glad I learned this art from my grandmother and can still enjoy the ‘fruits’ of our labors, even though she’s been gone for more than 20 years.  Several years ago, I found an old jar of jelly that my grandma had put up the year before she died.  I don’t know why I had saved it, but I decided to share it with my family.  I baked a simple cake, and used the jelly as icing on the cake.  At Christmas, I announced to my family that 

I hope that I can teach my daughters and my nieces how to preserve food the way my grandmother did.  I think this is a skill that will be very useful to us all in the future. 

I know that we can not live by bread alone, but the men in my house think they have to have meat and potatoes at least once a day.  And I am happy to try to oblige them whenever possible.  Besides meat, I also put up salsa, home made chili, and boiled peanuts. These are also an excellent source of protein. Here in the south, we love our boiled peanuts.  I started putting them in jars last year, also.  Now I can hardly keep them on the shelf!  My husband and my son open a jar almost every night to eat while watching their favorite television shows.  During the hard times I am afraid is coming, I have come up with some ways to utilize the boiled peanuts to the fullest.  After opening the jar, we drain off the salty water and used it to flavor a can of mixed vegetables to make it into soup.  You can also use the salty water to gargle for a sore throat.  Boiled peanuts are a great snack because, unlike many salty snacks, they do not turn into sugar like some carbohydrates.

I have been trying to incorporate using my canned meat, chicken and hamburger, into some of our meals now, so that it will not be so strange when we do hit hard times and do not have the option of using fresh meat, unless we have just come back from hunting.  But I figure that everyone will be out trying to hunt and fish and being in the woods with a bunch of strangers carrying guns is not my idea of a viable option.  Some of the dishes I have tried using the canned chicken are home made chicken salad for sandwiches.  We have had it with Chicken Helper chicken alfredo and southwest chicken.  I have used the chicken to make chicken noodle soup,  chicken pot pie, and chicken and rice.  I will usually add a can of Cream of Chicken soup to the chicken noodle soup to make it creamier. 

The hamburger is put up cooked, with a bullion cube and water, as loose ground beef.  We use the hamburger meat to make tacos, Sloppy Joes, spaghetti, and again with Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper.   It works great with any of the Hamburger Helpers, but the cheeseburger macaroni is our family favorite.

You can find the instructions for canning meat and canning chicken in the instruction booklet that comes with your pressure canner/cooker.  The recipe is also in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  My friend has shown me how to put up deer sausage, so I plan to do that this year.  It looks like sausage links in the jar, but when you pour out the water, the sausage casing disintegrates and leaves you with loose sausage, which is great for sausage and rice or mixed with eggs for a breakfast casserole.  Happy Canning!