Self-Sufficient Living | Homesteading | Gardening

U-Can-It: Chicken

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Raising your own chicken for meat can be a rewarding experience. You will have a freezer full of meat before you know it, right? But what if the power goes out due to a storm or other disaster and is out for more than a few minutes? All that meat can thaw and go bad. If your power is out then you probably aren’t going to be able to cook a whole bunch of frozen chicken, either. What to do?

Can it!

Whether you raise it yourself, or purchase it on sale or in bulk, canning meat is a safe way to preserve it for later use on your pantry shelf. When you go to use it, it’s pre-cooked so all it needs is to be heated. Of course, without a way to cook it, you can still consume it safely straight from the jar. It’s great to take along while traveling for quick, easy, and cheap meals. Let’s get started canning your own chicken.

First, some things to know:

  • Canning chicken requires you to use a pressure canner. No amount of time in a hot water bath canner will destroy the botulism bacteria. Pressure canning is a MUST, no matter what your Grandmother said years ago.
  • You can can chicken that is raw, partially cooked, or fully cooked. I will explain each method and benefits of that method.
  • Canned chicken will have a soft texture that will be great for shredded tacos, chicken salad, or use in casseroles. The breast meat will not hold up in chunks after canning.

To get started canning chicken, you will need:

  • A pressure canner
  • Clean canning jars
  • New canning lids
  • A sharp knife
  • Clean and sterilized pliers

The canning jars you choose can be either quart or pint. They need to be washed and rinsed well, and sterilized. You can do this by washing, rinsing, and filling with boiling water for at least 10 minutes, running through the dishwasher and leaving on the “hot dry” cycle until use. The quart jars are better for canning the legs and thighs, and the pints are great for the breast meat. You can fit 2 breasts in a pint jar, and 3-4 in a quart jar. So plan accordingly for your family’s use. You need to use brand new canning lids for this, as reusing lids may cause the lid to not seal correctly. Bands can be used over and over, provided they are clean. Your knife should be very sharp, to avoid it slipping and possibly cutting you. You will use this for cutting the breast meat in chunks as necessary to fit, or for cutting a whole chicken into pieces for canning. A pair of good pliers will come in handy for pulling the skin off the leg pieces. Wash and dry the pliers before using and keep them solely for canning/food purposes. Let’s get started.

When you are preparing to can a whole chicken, either one you raised or bought on sale, you will first need to cut the chicken into pieces, known as fabricating. Once you get the hang of doing this, you can cut a whole chicken into pieces within minutes.

  • Start with the bird on it’s back, breast side up on a clean cutting board
  • With your sharp knife, cut along the fat line of the leg quarter and cut it down.
  • Pop the leg joint so that it lays flat.
  • Repeat on the other leg. Now your chicken will stay more steadily in place.
  • Next, go back to the breasts and find the middle bone.
  • Cut on one side of the bone, top to bottom to remove the breast.
  • Follow the natural fat lines along the breast meat until it’s cut free from the bone.
  • Repeat on the other breast removing both from the whole chicken.
  • Carefully follow the fat and joint lines and remove the wings from the chicken.
  • Go back to the leg quarters and remove them from the chicken, again, following the fat and joint lines
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • To cut the leg quarters into thighs and legs separately, find the joint that connects them and “pop” your knife through it. It should go through easily. If you find it is difficult, you don’t have the joint. Bend it slightly and you should see it in the middle.

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Save the remaining back and carcass for broth. You can either start your broth now, or freeze the carcass until you are ready for broth. Just place it in a large freezer bag until you are ready to use.

Now that your chicken is “fabricated”, you will need to remove the skin.

  • From the breast, simply pull it down and remove. You shouldn’t need the knife to remove the skin from the breast.
  • From the thigh, the skin should easily come off without the knife as well. Hold the thigh piece in one hand, and pull down on the skin with your other hand.
  • For the leg piece, hold the leg at the bone end and pull the skin from the top of the meat in a down direction. You may need the pliers at this point to remove it from the bottom of the leg. Pull it off completely.
  • You can leave the bones on the legs and thighs, as they can safely.
  • Wings are better frozen than canned as they take up a lot of room in the jar without providing much meat. If you are canning a lot of chicken, make chicken wings for dinner with this recipe

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Once your chicken is all fabricated and skinned, canning is easy! We’re going to start with the breast meat. The directions are the same for both quart and pint jars, including processing time. For the raw pack method:

  • Fill the jars with the whole breasts, adding 2-3 as they fit.
  • Cut the breasts up if necessary to ensure they fit in the jar
  • Cover the meat with hot boiling water or chicken broth, and leave 1 inch headspace.
  • Carefully insert a rubber spatula and swipe it around, removing all the air bubbles.
  • Wipe the top of the jar carefully with a damp cloth to remove all the food and grease that may have gotten on there. This is important to ensure a good seal.
  • Add the new lid to the jar. Screw the band on but not so tight that you can’t easily remove it
  • Place in pressure canner.
  • Repeat with remaining jars until the canner is full.
  • Process for 90 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Start timing when the canner reaches the full pressure on the gauge, or the rocker begins “rocking.” NOTE: If you live higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, see the note at the bottom of this post.

For the partially cooked method:

  • Cut the breast meat into chunks and place in a hot skillet without oil or seasoning.
  • Cook the breasts until medium done.
  • Follow the steps above for placing into the jar and processing time.

For the legs, you will use clean quart jars. The legs will normally not fit into pint jars with enough headspace.

  • Place 3 legs “meat side” down in the jar.
  • Alternate 4 legs “meat side” UP with the other 3.
  • Cover the legs with boiling water or chicken broth, leaving 1 inch headspace.
  • Carefully insert a rubber spatula and swipe it around, removing all the air bubbles.
  • Carefully wipe the top of the jar with a damp towel to remove any food or grease, ensuring a good seal.
  • Add the new lid and band
  • Place in the pressure canner.
  • Process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, beginning the timer when the canner reaches the full pressure on the gauge or the rocker starts rocking.

For the thighs, you can use either pint or quart. You can fit 3-4 thighs per pint jar, and 7-9 thighs per quart jar, so use the jars that will fit your family’s needs best.

  • Layer the thighs in the jar, packing tightly.
  • Cover with boiling water or broth, leaving 1 inch headspace.
  • Carefully insert a rubber spatula and swipe it around, removing all the air bubbles.
  • Carefully wipe the top of the jar with a damp towel to remove any food or grease, ensuring a good seal.
  • Add the new lid and band
  • Place in the pressure canner.
  • Process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, beginning the timer when the canner reaches the full pressure on the gauge or the rocker starts rocking.

For the fully cooked method: This is great for when you find yourself with lots of leftover chicken, or when you find rotisserie chicken on sale for a great deal. You can pressure can that to save it in your pantry for later, reducing waste on leftovers. Win-win, right?

  • Remove all of the chicken from the bone and take off as much skin as possible.
  • Don’t worry about trying to separate the white or dark meat with this method.
  • Save the carcass for broth.
  • Place all the meat pieces in a clean quart or pint jar.  
  • Cover the meat with hot boiling water or chicken broth, and leave 1 inch headspace.
  • Carefully insert a rubber spatula and swipe it around, removing all the air bubbles.
  • Wipe the top of the jar carefully with a damp cloth to remove all the food and grease that may have gotten on there. This is important to ensure a good seal.
  • Add the new lid to the jar. Screw the band on, finger tight.
  • Place in pressure canner.
  • Repeat with remaining jars until the canner is full.
  • Process for 90 minutes at 10 lbs. Pressure, beginning the time when the canner reaches the full pressure on the gauge, or the rocker begins “rocking.”

For all methods, allow the canner to cool completely on it’s own and then remove the jars to cool in a non drafty place. Allow to cool for 24 hours, then begin to check seals. If the lid pops up when you press down, it’s not sealed and will need to be stored in the fridge and used within 3 days. If the lid stays put when you press down, it’s sealed. Wipe the jar with a damp towel and remove the band. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

To use, simply open the jar, pour out the liquid and add the meat to your recipe.

***for all those at high altitudes, you will need to follow the directions in your canner’s book for adding time and pressure increases***

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