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Date: 26 May 2014. Canning Primer (Preserving Meats, Part 1)

I enjoy eating a variety of healthy foods and prefer those hidden and out of the way anchorages far from civilization. Thus I've had to come up with a way to have the foods I like without access to a grocery store. Canning meats allows me to enjoy a wide variety of foods bought on sale, processed aboard, pre-cooked and not loaded with salt. Plus, they taste good.

Also aboard Seaweed I haven't always had refrigeration -- if it's cloudy or the wind is not blowing, I don't have the power.  So I opted to preserve meats in canning jars. This article focuses on the how's and why's of the choices I've made for Seaweed.

Canning or processing meats has a couple of tricks I've learned over the years.  It's important to note that the old canning books (circa 1920's era) had different standards than we use today. The following is how I do it -- but of course you must make sure it works for you. Your local County Extension Program (think "agriculture") will have details on how they do things. This is what I do:
 

Canning and Processing Meats aboard Seaweed

 

Supplies Needed:

1. Pressure Cooker
2. Glass canning jars
3.
Tongs to remove jars from hot water
(Tongs are called Jar Lifters too)
4. A
funnel to fill the jars
5. Timer

What Pressure Cooker?

I chose a three liter unit with small handles so it would fit into my lockers taking minimal space. I was wrong!  My canner will not fit the one cup standard jars -- they are too tall for my pressure cooker lid. The lid won't close.

Advice:  Pick the jars you want to use, then take them to a store to see what fits.

 

When I was shopping this was the smallest unit sold.
Note how the handles are short so will fit better in my lockers.

 
According to friends who have been canning for decades, I was advised to purchase a spare gasket with the pressure cooker. Apparently they are not always easy to find and when (not if) the gasket wears out having a spare will make life easier.  I did so.

When purchased, the packaging indicated that keeping the gasket sealed would be a good idea. It fits easily inside the unit, so that's where it is kept.

Being able to find the things you have is as important as having them on hand.

 


Brands vary but before you buy a unit you need to decide what size canning jars you'll be using. That's how you will determine which pressure cooker to buy. The jars need to fit inside the smallest unit you can find. And no, you absolutely do not need to buy quart jars. Never.

That's Step Two in the process.
 

 

What size jars?

 

A lot of people automatically think "quart size jars" as they are the largest but I believe that is a mistake.

My thinking is that fresh vegetables are available everywhere or can be kept in net hammocks in a cool part of the boat, but meat? No, it will spoil and all too quickly without refrigeration. That's why I've chosen to preserve meat alone. I can add the fillers from my dry goods locker.

For me, the 1/2 cup jelly jars work well, though I do have some 1/2 pint (why can't the manufacturer's call the one cup jars?!) glass jars for larger quantities.

When we discuss jars they come in two size openings on the top. Wide mouth and regular.

 

Kerr, another brand of jars also now comes in the wide mouth one cup (1/2 pint) size like the Ball jar shown on the right. That would be the one I'd suggest you opt for. If you have a larger crew, the one pint jars would be a good choice.

 


The advantage to the wide mouth jars is that they are easier to empty.  I make lasagna and even stuffed green peppers so having a way to empty the contents without disturbing the layers (lasagna) makes for a better presentation.

You will also need a couple of tools to make filling and removing the hot jars easier. Those are tongs and a filler funnel.  I went without the tongs for the first couple of years but after burning myself a time or three I learned. Trying to save money is generally a very good thing, but not when it comes to these essentials.

It is necessary to have a timer but it doesn't have to be a fancy galley timer. Mostly I use my cell phone but if I had a small one of those wind up things, I'd use that instead.

I have opted to fill my jars with meat. Pure and simple, perhaps with some barbecue sauce or salsa, but you won't find beef stew in my larder. Thus with a jar of sausage or meatballs, I can add some canned sauce (it's fine, cheap, and easy to stow) and create a meal for one or more.  Depending upon how many guests dictates the amount of sauce I use!
 

 
Four 1/2 pint in my pressure cooker.
Back then I used to wrap the jars in fabric.

Seven 1/2 cup jelly jars fit in my pressure cooker.
I discovered a face cloth on the bottom works fine.

 


Side Note: My pressure cooker fits four wide mouth jars (one cup size) but it will not fit the taller regular mouth jars of the 1/2 pint size.  I should have opted for a taller pressure cooker to offer myself more options in canning especially since the shorter wide-mouth jars are becoming harder to find.  [
Kerr is the brand you need to seek as Ball quit making them.]


Now you know why I have opted for either the half or one cup size jars.  You, if feeding a man-sized appetite might opt for either one cup or one pint jars -- nothing larger.  The smaller jars are easier to store, I've had no issues with any breaking, and really, how much meat do you eat at a meal?

The idea for me in canning is so I will always have a variety of meats onboard. Even in remote locations I'm not eating canned beef stew or canned chili. That stuff gets old almost as fast as beans and rice!

Because the jars do not require refrigeration I'm at liberty to have anything I desire at a moment's notice.  Life afloat does not get much better. Tonight I'm having wild boar, with green pepper and onions and a side of mashed potatoes. It's a rough life, but somehow I manage.

Part Two, Processing in Pressure Cooker tells how I preserve meats aboard Seaweed.

I'd love to hear if I've missed some essential for canning (besides the recipes).
And, are you pressure cooker aficionado? What do you make?

COMMENTS:
 

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