Small Batch Meat Canning Tips, by Tractorguy

Introductory Proviso: This article assumes that the user is already familiar with safe practices to pressure-can meat. This article is NOT a comprehensive discussion of all the caveats and procedures necessary for safe canning. It is ONLY supplementary information for specific items and situations listed below. The correct procedures (times and pressures) for safely pressure-canning low-pH items like meats are available from the manufacturer of your pressure canner or from the USDA.

My wife and I enjoy pressure canning, and believe it to be the best procedure for storing small quantities of meat and other perishables for easy transportation and storage in a grid-down environment where refrigeration and cooking may be unavailable or problematic. Pressure-canned meat is moist (it is cooked during the canning process in its own juices), fork-tender, and delicious. It is already cooked and only requires warming — or if you’re really desperate, eaten cold. In addition, even in a non-emergency environment, we have found that it provides us with quick, pre-cooked meals for dinner when we are both tired from working all day and don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort making dinner.

We have found that most of the recipes for canning are for quantities in pints and quarts. My wife and I are both small people and don’t eat a lot. These quantities of food are just too big for us to use in a reasonable amount of time, and result in a quantity of perishable food after we open a jar that must be used quickly or it will spoil. We typically can meat in half-pint or quarter-pint jars, and soups or other complete meals in pints. Such quantities would also be desirable for a person living alone that would not be able to reliably refrigerate a partially used jar of food.

If you are into canning, or considering getting into canning, I strongly urge you to explore reusable canning lids like Tattler or Harvest Guard (an advertiser on the SurvivalBlog site). This reduces your consumables to near zero. Remember that when using reusable lids, you must retighten them when removing them from the canner. Put your hot mitts on and grab each jar after removing it from the canner and give it a twist to make sure the lid is tight.

The only downside to reusable lids is the unlikelihood of getting your reusable lids back if you give away any of your canned food. One admirable point that is stressed here at SurvivalBlog is the concept of Christian charity in difficult times. When canning, you might want to use a few metal lids for each batch, with those jars becoming your potential giveaway food – if you never see that person again, you only lost the jar, not the reusable lid.

There was a lot of chatter on the survival sites about the unavailability of canning jars in late 2020. While I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart, they do carry canning jars, and seem to stock them in larger quantities than the rural supply stores, which I find odd. Meijer (another ‘everything’ store like Wal-Mart) carries canning supplies too, as well as Menard’s, a home improvement store! So don’t be afraid to look there for canning supplies.

Another frustration with many of the canning recipes available on-line is that they do not specify how many or what size jars are required, therefore making it difficult to make sure that you have enough — or too many — clean jars on hand for your canning session. My mother used to say, “A pint is a pound, the world around”. That is true – generally, depending on the specific gravity of the particular item, one pint of most anything generally weighs about one pound. This is a handy rule of thumb for planning the number of jars required for your canning sessions, but there are pitfalls. One pound of ground meat will be around one pint, but if you are using that pound of meat to make sloppy joe mix or taco mix, the additional ingredients will add to the final amount and your pound of ground meat will wind up filling more than one pint jar, two half-pint jars, or four quarter-pint jars. You can use that rule of thumb to help make an educated guess on the number of jars you will need if the recipe does not specify – in my recipes below I indicate the number of jars required.

Some Meat Canning Tips

Taco meat – Brown ground beef, drain fat, and add taco seasoning and water per package directions. One pound of ground beef will make three half-pint jars, or two pounds of meat will make 6. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

Sloppy Joe mix – Brown ground beef, drain fat, and add Sloppy Joe mix seasoning and water per package directions. One pound of ground beef with the other ingredients from your favorite sloppy joe recipe will make about three half-pint jars, or two pounds of meat will make 6. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

Bacon – Roll 2 ½ strips of raw bacon up tightly and place in a quarter-pint jar. One lb of bacon will fill five quarter-pint jars with ½ strip left over. The only disadvantage to this is you can’t unroll them after it is cooked during canning, so this is only for bacon bits for omelets, salads, etc. If you like crispy bacon you will want to cook it some more after opening to dry and crispen it up. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

Breakfast Sausage – I wanted to find a way to simply can sausage patties. The tubes of regular breakfast sausage are around 2 3/8” wide, about the same diameter as a quarter pint jar. However, the thawed raw sausage was too crumbly to slice reliably. My solution was to raw-pack the sausage into a half-pint jar. After cooking the meat during the pressure canning process, and removing the cooked chunk of meat from the jar, the meat was solid enough to slice easily. The meat, while cooked through, will still look pink on the inside, and you can finish the patties after slicing by frying them for a short time on the griddle while frying your eggs, pancakes, etc. Typically we start with four pounds of sausage, raw-pack 3 lbs. into seven ½ pint jars (to be sliced into patties after opening), and brown the remaining one lb. and fill five ¼ pint jars for use in omelets, mess, etc. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

One disadvantage of raw-packing higher-fat meats, like beef and sausage, is that the fat separates out of the meat when canning and forms a layer on top of the finished product. For this reason, generally only lower-fat meats, like chicken, are raw-pack canned, and higher-fat meats are browned first to remove the fat before canning. However, while thinking about the problem of how to store fats without them turning rancid, it occurred to me that the fat on top of the jars of raw-packed meat was a safely preserved small amount of fat, which can be immediately used for shortening for biscuits or any other cooking need where fat is required. Like the computer and IT folks like to say, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

Soups, etc.:

Bean soup – This is a great way to make and can bean soup that cooks the beans during the canning process. Start with seven pint jars (wide mouth are more convenient), a ham hock, a medium onion, 2 ¼ quarts of water, and 1 lb. of navy beans. Simmer the ham hock overnight in the crock pot in the 2 ¼ quarts of water. The next day, remove the bones from the ham hock and chop up the meat. Dice the onion. Divide the beans, onion, and ham evenly among the seven pint jars and add the water that the ham hock cooked in, leaving ¾” headspace in the jars. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

Tomato mac and beef – DISCLAIMER: Published guidelines state that you are not supposed to pressure-can pasta. However we do it and really enjoy this recipe for a quick meal and have not ever had any problems. So, use at your own risk. Six pint jars, one lb. ground beef, two cups elbow macaroni, one half-gallon can of tomato juice. Brown the ground beef. Layer 1/3 cup of elbow macaroni and 1/6 lb. of browned ground beef in each jar. Pour tomato juice over the top and use a wooden spoon handle or similar device to poke down through the beef and macaroni in ten places or so to allow the tomato juice to penetrate down through. You should have about 1” of headspace in the jars above the tomato juice after doing this. You can also add a medium diced onion to this if you like. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

Potato and leek soup: Six pint jars, three medium potatoes, one large leek (16” or so long) or two smaller ones, two cans chicken broth. Wash the leeks thoroughly to remove any dirt or sand. Slice them into 1/8” rings. Peel and dice the potatoes. Layer into the jars and cover with boiling chicken broth. Pressure can for 75 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure.

DON’T throw away the leek root bulbs after making this recipe. Put it in a jar of water where it can get some sun, and let it resprout. After a week or so, transplant it into potting soil in a pot and let it grow – you won’t have to buy leeks again! You will be able to cut off the stems again after six weeks or so of growth and let them grow again. The same is true for chives, and green onions (scallions). You’ll never have to buy them again!

Potatoes – We love mashed potatoes, and mashing them before canning ensures that you get the most in each jar with no air bubbles. Weigh your potatoes before starting. Three pounds of potatoes is about a normal-sized batch of mashed potatoes in a large cookpot and will fill three pint-size jars. Peel, cook, and mash without milk. Add ¼ tsp. of canning salt in each jar if desired. Pressure can for 35 minutes at 10 ½ lbs. pressure. When ready to serve, heat, add milk and butter as desired, and mash them again to make them as smooth as possible.

Good luck and God bless!




39 Comments

  1. I too wanted to can meats and some veggies (peas) in smaller quantities for just me and hubby.

    When I called Ball to find out if I could use the “quilted” 3/4 and 4oz jars for pressure canning they told me I could NOT as they would explode under the pressure in the canner. They recommended only using the pint and quart jars that were made for pressure cannig.

    What kind of jars are you using?? Are they different than the “quilted” jars from Ball??

    1. We use Ball jars exclusively, and have not heard or seen any reason that you cannot use them for pressure canning. I will recheck tonight and look at the cardboard flats that they came in, but we have been doing this for years, reusing the jars, and have never had a jar fail. That’s a new one on me.

      1. WOW thank you for the reply. I will be testing it this spring as I plan on growing a bunch of green peas to can.

        I wonder why the Ball people said not to.

        But since others are doing it w/o a problem–I will be giving it a try.

    2. ALL Ball canning jars are safe for pressure canning. I have dozens of quilted jars and use them for both water bath and pressure canning. Ball does not make jars that are not safe for both.

    3. Grandee… Such a good question, and I didn’t know that there might be a difference in these jars from the standpoint of pressure canning. I’ve always used the pints and quarts, but your inquiry makes me more aware of this kind of question. It has helped me to further develop dimension in my safety thinking. Thanks so much!

  2. I have been using half-pint and quarter pint jars for years to make and pressure can bacon bits and have never had a jar break. Have also used them for ham chunks to put into soup. Give it a try, you should be just fine. Sometimes you have to be a rebel and break the rules!

  3. Tatanka,

    For the past year, Sam’s Club has had a regular supply of ground bison, High Plains Ground Bison, Two Pack (40 oz.). But, I have been hesitant to stock up on frozen meat due to potential power outages. Maybe I need to do a few small batches to stock up…

    What would the safe storage time be for a small jar of ground bison?

    1. I believe that all meats are to be processed at 75 minutes for pints or half-pints, and 90 minutes for quarts, at 10 1/2 lbs. pressure. But consult the FDA guidelines, or the manual for your canner, to be sure.

      1. You can dry can without adding liquid. We do chicken when found cheap for our dogs. Pressure can for 110 minutes and the bones even mush down. Otherwise if it’s for “human” food we do it for 90 minutes at 12# since we are at 2222′ elevation.
        We also dry can carrots, potatoes and green beans. No added liquid. Tastes better and not mushy. Just add a pinch of salt if you wish. Pints 30 mins, Qts 40 mins.

  4. Ball’s Blue Book of Preserving has many 1/2 pint recipes. Page 8 *Deluxe Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars-The quilted pattern adds a decorative touch to these multi purpose jars. Tapered sides make them perfect for freezer jam or other freezer uses, as well as for boiling-water and steam-pressure processing. The regular mouth jars come in 4-ounce, 8-ounce, and 12-ounce sizes. (my copy has the blackberry tart on the front.)

  5. Good article. My wife and I enjoyed pressure canning meats in 2020. Some folks fear pressure canning but it can be done safely. You have to follow instructions with your canner step by step. I have been pressure canning vegetables for years. The only problem I have encountered was that I failed to check the opening for the pressure regulator. It was plugged and when the pressure went too high, the rubber safety plug blew out. That got my attention and now I always check that the hole is open.

    I have afew suggestions if you want to pressure can food. Get and read some good books on pressure canning. Ball Blue Book on canning, So Easy to Preserve from the University of Georgia are my go to books. I’m sure there others. Reluctantly because of their political stance, YouTube is loaded with pressure canning videos. Most videos are good but if something doesn’t sound right, do more research. Headspace is very important. Headspace is the distance from the liquid level in the jar to the top of the jar. Some recipes call for more headspace. Some fresh meat recipes call for no liquid in the jar. Liquid cooks out of the meat. The high temperatures of pressure canning meats can greatly expand the the liquid. If there is not enough headspace, the liquid will be forced out of the jar into the cooker. The biggest danger of this is that food particles will get stuck between the jar rim and the lid which prevents the jar from sealing. While making venison soup this fall, I had 2 of 14 quart jars fail to seal because I left 1 1/4 inch headspace. I now leave 2” headspace. We put those 2 quarts in the freezer in plastic bags and they were delicious. In the case of headspace, a tad more may be better. My pressure canner is outside in a mostly enclosed area to keep the heat outside in summer and protect from cold wind in winter. Once the canner is loaded, I do not leave it unattended. In my area, quarts of meat are required to be cooked for 90 min at 11 psi. The canner has a weight to regulate the pressure plus a gauge. I start the timer when 11 psi is reached. I sit nearby and may read SB while I check the gauge every few minutes. If the gauge drops to 10.5 psi, I increase heat. If the gauge goes to 11.5 psi, I decrease heat. After the correct cooking time is reached, the heat is cut off and the cooker allowed to cool until there is no pressure on the gauge. This may take more than one hour with the heavy cast aluminum All American canner.

    We have been very pleased with the results we have gotten. I ordered some of the reusable Harvest Guard lids but have not used them. The tip to tighten the rings when the hot jars are removed from the canner particularly caught my attention. Thank you TG.

  6. I really appreciate this article, not so much for the small batch info (which we will use], but for other useful information. We use Tattler lids, but did not know you’re supposed to tighten them after the jars come out of the pressure cooker. Do you remove the metal rings once the jars have cooled?

    We’ve never canned pasta. Do you cook it completely before canning, or just enough to make it pliable so it will go into the jars?

      1. Yes, we remove the rings after the jars have cooled thoroughly. We normally do our canning after dinner and get the jars out of the canner when done, then let them cool overnight till the next day, where we remove the rings, wipe the jars off with soap and water, and label and date them on the lids with a Sharpie.

  7. Iwould suggest you go to your local mom and pop store and ask them to order jars for you. They have a master catalog to order their supplies from. I have ordered 20-30 cases of pint jars at one time from local store, you have to order and pay ahead of the order being placed, as small stores can’t absorb the costs if you never come back to get them.

  8. Great info and recipes. Thanks so much. We use the Tattler lids and also try to keep a few tin lids for gifts. I’m going to order more Tattler lids to barter with. I think they might be worth as much as ammo. Only trouble, the shipping cost is a third of the cost of the lids. $30. for a $100. case of lids. I’ve encouraged my local country store to stock them since they’re out of all the usual canning supplies. But they think locals won’t try something new. What a mind set! So, I’ve given some of mine away to friends who I know can a lot of food. They were shocked and thrilled to find reusable lids.

    1. Patti, The problem with asking local store to stock reusable lids is, 1) if they don’t sell they have to eat the loss. 2) If they sell reusable lids they make 1 sale, selling one time use lids they make numerouse sales to the same customer. The stores only make a small amount from each box of lids they sell. Hopefully in time people will be able to convince them to stock them.

  9. Good article. Home canned meats are the best. The wife and I have been canning for several years now. Use Tattler and Harvest Guard as well. We leave the rings on the jars (loose) after they cool just so we don’t have to find a place to store them. Let some friends try our handy work and now they’re canning. Only way to go considering the current world situation. One suggestion regarding sausage. We buy ground turkey from Smiths (Kroger) Cook it with a sausage spice recipe and can. Tastes just like and healthier to boot.

  10. We have started canning the majority of our food in pint and half pint jars. I would be sure to research the canning times and the pressure requirements. If you’re at a higher altitude the requirements change. Pressure canning can be very safe IF you follow the instructions carefully. As to canning pasta the only objections I know of is it might turn to mush. They Don’t recommend canning with fat but I believe that’s only because if you don’t leave enough head space the fats could expand and the lid might not seal correctly. But if you check the seal carefully after the jar is completely cooled and it’s sealed I wouldn’t worry about it. I purposely make my chicken broth with some fat in it as it tastes much better and our bodies need some fat. They don’t recommend canning dense foods such as packed in ground sausage because they fear the pressure won’t get high enough all the way through the jar. Personally I wouldn’t worry about that with pints or half pints. But I might add 10 more minutes to the processing time just to be safe. Canned meat can last up to at least 10 years as long as it stays sealed. I have prepared 10 year old smoked salmon and it was just great .

  11. I primarily can chicken thighs, and stews and soups with meats in them. Vegetable soups, bean soups, etc. I’ve read several recipes for canning meatloaf, and wanted to adapt it to canning hamloaf (a midwestern speciality). I found an acceptable solution to the question of density: partially precook patties of the meatloaf before stacking in a wide mouth pint jar. I ran into a problem, though, with the ingredients of the hamloaf, which include milk and fresh bread cubes. Flour/bread, and milk are a no-no for pressure canning! I substituted rolled oats and some fully cooked wheat berries for the bread component, and used milk anyway, partially precooking the patties, then packing them in the sauce (vinegar, brown sugar and mustard). The seals were great, but upon consuming them some months later, we found them quite hard and dry-feeling, though they’d been canned in liquid. I have quite a few pints left for which I’ll have to find uses. Perhaps I should have used the bread anyway, and more milk, though that might have expanded the patties enough to cause seal (or jar) breakage. Have any of you canned hamloaf, or used bread cubes in meat canning? The only seal break and subsequent spoilage from my canning in about 10 years of pressure canning was several quarts of chili con carne, in which I used the commercial thickener/masa, which I think caused the chili to expand. Euww!

    1. PL C, I can meatloaf all the time using 93/7% ground round which produces less grease but enough to keep everything moist. Maybe omit the bread crumbs. You might try mixing non-fat powdered milk with some type of liquid, thoroughly integrated in your loaf, so it is more mushy than firm. By the time it cooks and cools it should firm up.

  12. We have been canners for quite some time and we can chicken and turkey chunks, beef stew meat, hamburger, and beef stew in quarts.We also can many garden veggies as well.
    We look at a freezer as a somewhat temporary storage area and would rather have food on the shelf. In the event of a longer term power outage we are set up to can most everything in the freezer. We have a large canner that can do 14 quarts at one time if we had to.
    Good article Tractorguy.

  13. Good ‘How to; Can do’ article Tractor Guy. The information in the article, and in the comments are both useful. … A lot of people just read the ‘How to; Can do’ articles without responding. = People want the information; but don’t think they are able to add ‘How to; Can do’ information with a comment.
    A lot of good and needed information is exchanged at SurvivalBlog.

  14. Thank you for this great information, TractorGuy! I’ve been wanting to can some of our venison and make more room in the freezer. This is just what I needed to give me the incentive to try it.

  15. WARNING! For anyone new to canning. Check your altitude before going by the pressure and time listed in this article!!! Pressure and time vary based on altitude. At my altitude I must process meats at 15 pounds pressure for 90 minutes. CHECK THIS!! FAILURE TO DO SO CAN BE DEADLY FOR YOUR FAMILY!

  16. Hey Tractorguy, thanks for the informative article. I haven’t done much pressure canning other than potatoes but I like your idea of having some instant meals when I’m too tired to do much else so I’ll try this on my next batch of chili.

    There was some discussion of jars and in 2020, instead of Chinese jars at Walmart, they were carrying Golden Harvest (by Rubbermaid) and Anchor Hocking jars, both types made in the USA. The Chinese jars they usually carry are just a hair larger than other jars and that last one just barely won’t fit in the canner like the others made in the US will. I have some antique Anchor Hocking jars and they’ve been around since the 1880’s so it’s a good brand. Both Anchor Hocking and Golden Harvest were $7.99, a dollar or two cheaper than Ball/Kerr.

  17. I’ve canned 95 lbs of deer and beef this winter. I love it!! And I want to can potatoes. I thought canning mashed potatoes was a “no no” though, not sure why. I figured I would just cut them into chunks, but I’d love to do mashed. Any sources on the safety of mashed?

  18. Andrea, the recipes I have seen just stress that you have to be very clean when canning potatoes, as they are a root crop and therefore have a lot of dirt on them. The instructions I have seen say to peel them and dice them up for canning. I’m not aware of any reason that mashing them would be different enough to cause problems, it seems that mashing them would make it easier for the heat to penetrate? We haven’t had any problems canning them mashed, but I will add the caveat to ‘use at your own risk’ as I did with the tomato mac and beef recipe. Tractorguy

  19. Canning mashed potatoes has the same issues as canning large pieces of meat or meatloaf. It acts as a single chunk and times must be extended to ensure the internal temperature gets high enough. It doesn’t always. Safer to can chunks and then warm and mash as needed.

  20. Canning bacon is not safe.

    In researching for another post, I came across this quote from Dr. Brian Nummer, Utah State University, Extension Food Safety Specialist. The original link is now dead; this link is to where the quote was posted. https://www.healthycanning.com/home-canning-cured-meats-bacon-brined-corned-ham-etc/

    QUESTION: I am not sure who to direct this question to, maybe you can forward it to the person who can give me the answer. A lot is going around right now about canning bacon by rolling raw or cooked bacon in parchment paper (I think that is what it is called) putting it in quart jars with no liquid and pressure canning it at 15 lbs for 90 min. Is this safe to do and store in a cold storage room for an extended period of time? Thank you for your time. Susan
    ANSWER: This practice is NOT recommended . The possible reasoning behind this advice is that bacon has nitrites in it that prevent the growth of C. botulinum (the botulism microorganism). Therefore “canning it” would somehow preserve it and make it safe to eat. However, there are many holes in that reasoning.
    1. The advice is NOT research based. No one has actually studied the process to determine if indeed it is safe from food-borne illness.
    2.There is no mention of “bacon” with nitrites (cured bacon). If people think its safe, they may try other processed meats. None have been research tested and all may result in botulism.
    3. Canning something “dry” will NOT generate enough heat to make things safe. Heat is transferred by water. In a pressure canner steam heats the water inside a canned food transferring that heat to the food. A temperature of 240-250 F for 30-120 minutes is needed to make a pressure canned food safe (via a research-tested process). Without water the temperature the bacon reaches will not be enough to destroy the botulism organism!”

    Ultimately, people have to make their own decisions about whether a practice is safe and whether the potential for illness, in this case botulism, is worth the risk. A case of botulism is extremely difficult to manage with all the advantages of modern hospital care; it will likely be impossible post-collapse.

    https://prepschooldaily.blogspot.com/2020/02/food-poisoning-what-you-need-to-know.html

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