Country Living Series

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canning chicken breasts

I try to keep a number of staples canned up in my pantry because staples are so useful as base ingredients for many different meals. One of these items is boneless skinless chicken breasts.

I started canning chicken breasts about four years ago when I came across a good bargain on them. They proved to be so handy in so many recipes (curry chicken, chicken pot pie, chicken turnovers, etc.) that I decided to always keep a supply on hand.

Whenever I had a few dollars to spare, I purchased three-pound bags of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts at Winco for $6. Don suggested I might be able to find a cheaper cut of chicken meat -- thighs, perhaps? -- for less money, but to my surprise boneless skinless thigh meat was costlier. I wanted to keep the meat both boneless and skinless since that way I can pack the most bang for my buck in each jar.

A couple weeks ago, while in our local wholesale grocery (Cash & Carry), I saw they had a sale on chicken breasts: 40 lbs. for $60, or $1.50/lb.


$60 is most of our weekly food budget, so I made a note on when the sale ended (November 18) and skimped on other groceries for that week.


I got the box just before the sale ended. I knew I could fit about two pounds of meat per quart jar, so I estimated I would get 20 quarts of canned meat from this box.


I optimistically thought I could get it canned up right away, but it was so frozen that I had to let it defrost slowly over a few days. I did that by putting the box in our "outdoor refrigerator" -- the top of our chest freezer. In this kind of weather, our outdoor fridge is quite handy.


The day came when I could finally start canning. It was a day of pouring and unrelenting rain...


...a day when the chickens darted from their coop into the shelter of Matilda's pen because they didn't want to face the weather. In other words, a perfect day for canning.


I washed seven quart jars -- all I can fit in my canner at one time.


Some people like to raw-pack chicken, but I prefer to cook mine first.


While I've used narrow-mouth jars for canning chicken, obviously the wide-mouth jars are easier to pack.


The chicken pieces need to be cut up in order to fit as many in a jar as possible. Feel free to cut the pieces as small as necessary. I suppose you could even dice the chicken if you wanted to, though I don't go to that extent.


Seven jars, filled with about two pounds of meat per jar.


I add a teaspoon of salt to each jar...


...then top everything with clean boiling water.


I leave about half an inch of headspace. My guide is the bottom of the bands on the mouth of the jar.


Wiping the rims. (This also allows me to check for any nicks on the rim I may have missed. A jar with a nicked rim won't seal.)


Scalding the Tattler lids.


Lids on...


...then rings.


Into the canner.


I use two kitchen timers while canning -- THE secret ingredient for stress-free pressure canning. The top timer gives me the overall canning time (ALL meats must be pressure-canned for 90 minutes for quarts). I set the bottom timer to go off about every five minutes, to remind me to check the pressure. At this point I'm waiting for the pressure to rise to the correct level, so I haven't started the top timer yet. (Timing doesn't start until the canner is at the correct pressure.)


Between twelve and thirteen pounds is the correct pressure for our elevation. Now I start the top timer and maintain the pressure for 90 minutes.


While the first batch of chicken was in the canner, I washed a second set of jars and got a second batch of chicken cooking in the stock pot.


By evening I had twenty quarts of chicken breasts canned up, just as estimated.


Canned chicken shreds beautifully, making it excellent for soups or stews or anything else.


Having a solid inventory of chicken is a versatile addition to anyone's pantry. If you can find boneless meat at a decent price, take advantage of it!

50 comments:

  1. I caught that sale also. Daughter and I split the cost and we too thought we would be able to take the chicken apart easy peasy. Two days later I was able to give her the half of the package. She is now hooked on doing chicken this way too. I just love using Cash and Carry for all my bulk purchases.

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  2. Hi, Patrice! I, too, like to can up chicken. But after cooking it and cutting it and placing it in the jars, I pour the broth that I just cooked it in over the meat. That way when I open it up and the recipe calls for so much diced chicken and so much broth, I can just measure it up. Wish we had a Cash & Carry down here in the deep South - sounds like a neat store! Dixie

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  3. A tip for those in the west that live near smaller locally owned or small chain grocery stores that sell Western Family products. They often do huge case lot sales a couple times a year and usually during that time you can get 25 pound boxes of boneless skinless frozen chicken breasts for $30 a box, and usually they allow people to get 2-3 at a time. Also sometimes around holidays they will do a 1 day sale and have that same cheap price on chicken. While a lot of times their regular prices are a lot higher than chain stores, they do sometimes have great specials.

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  4. That looks EXACTLY like the chicken I recently got from Zaycon. The box and everything. Were they huge breasts? Mine averaged 2 1/2 pounds. They have trucks that come down from Washington and delivers to a local pick up. My chicken was 67.50 for a 40# box. They are doing a 7% ground beef right now (40#) for 3.29 a pound. Can't afford it this time around, but looks like a good deal.

    Kathy

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    Replies
    1. I thought the same thing when I saw her box of chicken. Zaycon Foods delivers to Kansas where I live. I like to take advantage of their chicken and beef sales too.

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    2. I have purchased there hamburger, just like what we raise, only for me cheaper. Just purchased their chicken, bacon, and ham, the chicken was great and so was the bacon. Ham is for the holiday dinner. For those who have never eaten low fat content hamburger, it will seem dry to you. Just add a little cold water to the meat and cook as usual.

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    3. I have eaten the hamburger, like my grass feed beef. Due to the low fat content add a little cold water to the meat and cook as usual. We have eaten their bacon, chicken and the ham for holiday dinner yet to be tried. I can tell you it is really good meat, and I like they have their own processing plant for quality control.

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  5. I love having canned meat in the pantry. DH loves how the meat has broken down and is so tender. Wish I had caught the cash and carry sale. Next time.

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  6. Thank you Patrice for this.

    Any special recipes that you use in your cooking?
    Is it broth or plain water you cook the chicken in?

    @Kathy- I am going down to CdA next Tues to pick up my ground beef. I bought some about a year ago and it was delicious. I vacuum pack it then freeze it. Tastes good even a year later. It will be more expensive next time as the herds were culled this last couple of years, leaving less for 2013.

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    Replies
    1. That is what I did with my chicken, vacuum packed and froze :) I am going to try to get in on the ground beef, I have till mid Dec, if they don't sell out before.

      Kathy

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  7. Wonderful information. Thank you!

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  8. i like to can meats and poultry too when and if i get good prices to make it worthwhile. i also like to use the already hot boiling broth instead of the boiling water..this helps to eliminate using bouillon cubes when preparing meals/casseroles. i also use kosher salt.

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  9. Here im Arkansas we live in Chicken country. There are as many chickens here as there are pine trees in Idaho!!! I buy my chicken breasts from the Simmons company store for $6 for 5lbs. Also Tysons has the same kind of store but you have to be or know an employee. So if you happen to have a chicken plant near you then you can also ask them if they have a company store.
    I raw pack my chicken it saves time and makes a wonderful broth. Just my preference. I love to just open a jar and turn it into chicken salad sandwiches!

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  10. hi just been reading back came here from herricks blog lots of great stuff and i'll visit again I would just like to add a couple of things I use shopping bags (unsure if usa has them)in the freezer they are a synthetic fiber and come in lots of different colours I use a different colour for the different foods it's a great system and I never have the "what or earth is down there in the freezer problem" the other thing is I think that you have a problem with your cleanliness critic you keep refering to it and I would not have known about it except for your constant references to it how about you forgive and remember they may come from a different country or culture where standards are different animals are considered unclean in lots of cultures and your kitchen would be not considered clean in my country (and thats on a farm as well we have to have everything spotless and produce great food or suffer the wrath of mamma) we learn from little children to keep everything looking brand new and it's nice it doesn't take much extra effort once you are used to it we also put up big tables when canning/ drying/pickling etc this helps keep everything clean and clean as you go if the old family saw animals in the kitchen to them it would be like I was cooking on the manure pile they would be horrified please remember this and everyone show grace we have much to learn from one another

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  11. What is inside the cans next to the chicken. It's brown with an inch or so of white on the bottom. Just wondering...

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    Replies
    1. Bacon. See this post:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2011/01/canning-bacon.html

      - Patrice

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  12. What is you suggestion on a pressure canner, I by no means can afford a 400$ one but am looking for one in an affordable range, that works well an is a nice size for my family of 3... Any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. P.T., see this post:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2012/09/what-type-of-pressure-canner-should-you.html

      - Patrice

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  13. Hi,

    As I am new to canning and want to get off on the right foot, I would like to ask how long, the longest time, that your can chicken would be allowed to sit on the shelf and still be safe to eat?

    Thanks

    Allen

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  14. Hi,

    I and my prepper group are new to canning, so I would like to ask how long could that chicken sit on the shelf and still be found safe eat?

    Thanks

    Allen

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    Replies
    1. Years. And years and years (as long as the seals are intact and it was properly canned). I've eaten ten year old chicken and it was fine.

      Please see this post:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2012/08/how-long-will-home-canned-food-last.html

      - Patrice

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    2. Coincidence? This was posted on survivalblog today.
      It links to 5 studies done on long term canned and dry food.

      Canned food over 100yrs old was tested.

      "U.S. Army revealed that canned meats, vegetables, and jam were in an excellent state of preservation after 46 years."

      http://www.grandpappy.info/hshelff.htm

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. can you comment on how to put the rings on with tattler lids? I am not sure about how much to unscrew the lid. what do you do? thanks ann

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    Replies
    1. I don't unscrew the rings at all. Those directions are given because too many people tighten the rings too much, and Tattler lids need to vent in order to seal correctly. So try tightening the rings a medium amount and not loosening them. It takes a bit of experimentation to get the right "touch," but it will come with practice.

      - Patrice

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    2. Thanks for that info, Patrice. My last batch of applesauce (using Tattler lids) had a 40% failure rate for the seals. That was my failure - not Tattler's failure, I know it's just a matter of getting the right 'feel' with Tattler lids! I think I'll keep experimenting with less costly (both time and money) food, before I move on to meat! Beans, maybe?

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  17. Hi: I'm been reading your blog for quite awhile now and this past summer we had a garden for the first time in years. Now I'm ready to get serious about canning and I was checking out the All American Pressure Canner you suggest, but it says not recommended for use on glass top/flat range stoves and that is what I have. Any suggestions for me without having to purchase a new stove too?

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    Replies
    1. Anon 7:20, here's an excerpt from my ebooklet Canning FAQ's which may help:

      68. Can I use a glass-top stove for canning?

      The issue of canning on a glass-top stove is a thorny one. I’ve read pros and cons on both sides.

      One concern appears to be the potential for fluctuating temperatures. Apparently many glass-top stoves have a built-in sensor with automatic shut-offs so the temperature won’t go above a certain point and break the glass. Unfortunately this means the temperature in the canner may fluctuate to the point where the food is under-processed and thus unsafe.

      Another issue is damage to the stove top. Canners, which have large diameters, exceed the stove’s burner diameter. This traps and reflects the heat back to the stove which is not supposed to get that hot, and the stove top cracks. In some cases the metal of the canner has actually fused to the glass top of the stove.

      And of course, there is the issue of weight. A full canner can be very heavy. Some glass-top stoves are not designed to handle heavy objects and may crack under the weight.

      It is generally agreed that a canner’s bottom must be perfectly flat to use on a glass-top stove. Older Mirro canners have concave bottoms and cannot be used because the design means a large section of the canner’s bottom will not receive the necessary heat to safely process food. Canners with deformed rounded bottoms can’t be used on glass-top stoves .

      Different stove manufacturers have different recommendations for their particular stoves. Take heart, not every manufacturer recommends against canning. For guidance on particular models of stoves, see this link: http://www.pickyourown.org/cannings4glasstop.htm#specificguide

      For additional information on glass-top stoves, see this link: http://www.pickyourown.org/cannings4glasstop.htm

      There doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistent news about canning on glass-top stoves. Manufacturers will naturally be over-cautious about recommendations.

      About the best I can say is: unless you hear to the contrary from your stove’s manufacturer, you will be canning at your own risk.

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    2. My husband and I have a 40+ year old 40 in. range. Because I do most of my canning in the hot summer, we got tired of heating the house up and didn't want to tax the old range. We invested in a two burner gas range, usually used for camping, and I now can on that, outside or course. I even use it in the winter now when I'm canning meat. Thanks Patrice for giving me the courage to can meat!
      Kelly in K'ville, NC

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  18. i want to can chicken and i know about the processing times and i have canned before but my hubby is scared to do it as he is worried it is more prone to bacteria than other foods? how can i answer this- he says just freeze it but i want to have back up to the freezer

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    Replies
    1. Chicken in an unpreserved state is certainly very prone to bacteria. But of course, that's the whole point of canning -- to render food safe for long-term storage. Properly canned chicken is just as safe as properly canned anything.

      Remember, ALL meats (or mixed-food items containing meat or meat broth) MUST be pressure-canned for 90 minutes for quarts, or 75 minutes for pints (adjusted for your elevation).

      - Patrice

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  19. I got a box of the Zaycon breasts and froze them. I will, however, be canning that really, really cheap 30 pound turkey I purchased just before Thanksgiving.

    I also just put up 7 quarts of turkey vegetable soup from the leftovers from dinner.

    I have to chuckle with the two timers and the pressure gauge. I was really thinking I should purchase a new fangled All-American and replace my old Mirro. .. until I read on a blog post somewhere that I would have to start over if the pressure dropped. I then realized I had never actually read the directions that came with my canner. .. just mother's instruction. I go by the way the weight jiggles, I'm not sure I ready to know the info that gauge will give me. (canning for about 30 years anyway!!)

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  20. I have a glass stove top, has anyone canned on one. I know the canners say not to use them, I just wondered what would happen. I'm also wondering about pork and deer.

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    1. I can on my glass top stove. No problem. I have an American canner. My syove is a Kenmore. New and quite fancy. The heat stays perfect. There's no "pumping" at all.

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  21. Mrs. Lewis, I did this a year of so back - first thing I canned with my new pressure canner. I didn't pre-cook the breasts or add salt. The results were rather bland - like potted meat. I thought it would be alright if enough spices were added for tacos or something. But straight from the jar was a bit unsatisfying texture and taste wise.

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on the matter or if I'm stating the obvious. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. You certainly didn't do anything wrong -- canned chicken is undeniably bland and is best when used in something where spices are added (such as curry chicken or chicken pot pie, etc.). But its very blandness is what I like -- it becomes versatile that way.

      - Patrice

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  22. Have you ever heard of using one of those propane turkey deep-fryers to heat the canner ?

    To be used outside, of course.

    These are the ones that are maybe 1.5 - 2 feet tall, often have a sturdy tripod base, and use one of the big jugs of propane.

    Because... our house has a glass stovetop.


    - Charlie

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    Replies
    1. I tried this, and unless you have a regulator, don't do it.

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  23. Great Page!!
    I also Pressure can Chicken and have done so for several years.
    However now I only can the skinless Chicken Thighs anymore because I find the end product much more flavorfull and Delicious.
    I will can Boneless or Bone in with no regrets. I don't mind the bones as they add both flavor and nutrients to the chicken. (Thighs only have one bone.)
    I always Raw Pack when I Pressure Can Chicken because I have had such perfect results every time, Also I use the Pressure created broth in my recipes.
    Radiant




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  24. I stumbled onto this wonderful blog completely by accident and am so glad I did. I have my first batch of chicken boiling as I type. It will go right next to my jars of canned beanless chili I did a week ago. Nice to find someone somewhat local also. Thanks!

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  25. Hi Patrice! Thanks for your site. I just canned 6 quarts of chicken breasts and 3 quarts of chicken thighs. After removing them from the pressure canner there was alot of grease on top and all over the jars. I know this was the natural juices from the meat. It just seemed odd to me. I canned the chicken raw pack with salt and no added liquid, processed 90 minutes at 15 lbs pressure, this was adjusted for our altitude. I;m worried about the safety ofthe chicken, can you help me out? Thanks so much marilyn

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like you did everything right, and grease on the jars is perfectly normal (the result of the jars venting during the canning process). Once the jars are cool and you've checked to make sure they're sealed correctly, just give the jars a good washing with soap and water before storing them away.

      - Patrice

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  26. Hi Patrice, thanks for getting back to me. I forgot to mention that although I put 3 inches of water in my canner (All American 930) when I took out the jars the water was over the top of the jars, could this cause the seals to fail? right now the lids seem fine and it has been about 20 hours since I canned them. The jars on the top rack were not greasy. Your site helps me feel empowered to can!! thanks again Marilyn

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  27. Well Hello, I have been reading about how to know if a lid has a good seal. It seems there are 3 ways, finger test where the center does not pop back out of the lid, looking across to make sure it is concave and the ping test. the ping test being tapping a spoon on the lid and getting a high pitched sound. My food is not touching the underneath of the lids. I am getting a dull sound on all of my jars, everything I have canned this past couple of weeks, HWB or Pressure canned. All lids are concave and no lids spring up. Is my food safe to eat? I have canned chicken breats and thighs cold pack, green beans, carrots, chili beans several different tomato sauces.. Whats up with the ping?? Please help now I am paranoid to let us eat the stuff. Thanks so much

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  28. Fyi, re cost of chicken: you will get the best # per lb price by buying whole or quartered chicken with the bones and skins, and learning how to bone a chicken. The post lists chicken at $2 a pound. If you paid $0.89 a pound whole, deboned, skin removed, you'd be paying less than $1.20 a pound for your boneless, skinless parts. Of course, your time is still worth something, but I learned this lesson from a chef many years ago. You decide how much your time is worth.

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  29. hi patrice,

    i have a question. wondering if when i can chicken if the chicken has to be hot? i cooked some chicken the other day intending to can it but didnt get to it that day so it has been in the fridge for a couple days. so if i put the chicken in the jars cold with hot water is that going to make my jars crack or explode in the canner?

    thanks in advance
    shalaee, idaho

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  30. do you have a page on canning ground beef?
    i found it once, dealing with your tattler lids but can't seem to find the right page. help please

    thanks a bunch
    shalaee, idaho

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  31. I just canned 8 quarts of turkey stew using a recipe from an old anthology.It was from 1991. It called for pressure canning at 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes. Then I found other newer poultry recipes that called for 90 minutes for quarts...so I started researching finding old books that called for 75 min and newer ones for 90 min. Are my 8 quarts of stew safe?

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  32. I raw pack mine, as I do pork, beef and venison. I was just wondering if it's better to pre-cook.

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