The USDA estimates that Americans throw away about 200 million pounds of turkey meat after their Thanksgiving meal. Y’all, I had to read that twice. 200 million pounds? The thought of eating turkey every single day following Thanksgiving is exhausting. Not to mention sometimes there is so much left that there isn’t any possible way to eat it all before it goes bad. The solution? Canning it to use throughout the year in so many different ways. Turkey noodle soup, turkey noodle casserole, turkey and dumplings, turkey pot pie…I could go on and on.
In a past post, I’ve showed you how to can chicken by using the raw pack method. This is where the chicken cooks during the processing. I’ve also showed you how to can your own chicken broth. Today I’m going to show you how to can meat that has already been cooked.
First things first, you need to make your broth. We need broth because we will be adding it in the jars with the meat.
First gather your ingredients. You’ll need onions, celery, garlic, carrots, salt and pepper.
I already had a container in my freezer I had been saving to make chicken broth. On Thanksgiving, I saved the entire carcass along with the skin, neck, giblets and any other pieces I could use to make broth. I put everything in a large stock pot, all the chicken and turkey pieces. I figured mixing the two together would just give me a more complex, rich broth. Don’t worry about dicing or making your veggies pretty. I just quarter the onion, cut the celery and carrots in half and let the garlic cloves whole. Cover everything with water. I put enough water so everything is covered by at least 3 inches on top.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. It takes a minimum of 3 hours to turn bones into broth but I like to let mine go a lot longer than that. The longer it reduces, the richer your broth will be. The last time mine cooked for about 12 hours. I’m not going to tell you to taste it to see if it’s done. If you’ve cooked it for longer than 3 hours, it’s done. Although I highly recommend letting it cook for longer than that. At this point it’s probably more of a chicken stock. A more reduced, darker, stronger, thicker version of broth. And amazingly yummy in recipes!
After you’ve simmered the broth down, you’ll need to dip it out and strain it through a colander. I use a small sauce pot to dip it out into a colander on top of a pitcher. That allows me to easily pour the broth once it’s strained. If you’re using a bowl, you’ll probably need a few bowls. You don’t realize just how much broth you made until you get to this point. You can also strain it a second time through cheesecloth to get those small bits that the colander let through.
Once you have the broth strained stick it in the fridge overnight to allow the fat to rise and solidify at the top. I’m going to be honest here, I don’t skim the fat off of mine. There really isn’t that much fat plus the fat gives it more flavor, at least in my mind it does. If you do want to skim the fat off, just take it out of the fridge the next morning and remove the hardened fat with a spoon.
Now let’s get on to canning!
Start with clean, sterilized jars. I run my jars through a cycle in the dishwasher to sterilize them. Being that my turkey was in the fridge and is cold when I pack it in, I don’t keep the jars hot. I don’t want to take the chance of having broken jars in the canner. We all know what happens when you mix hot and cold.
I started by cutting the turkey into chunks. Once I would get a handful chunked, I would pack it into my jars. For this, I used half-pint jars. I could fit about 3.5 – 4 ounces in each jar. If you are using pint jars, you could fit around 7 – 8 ounces. I fill the jars about half-way, then push it down and make sure all the nooks and crannies are filled in. Then pack more turkey chunks in on top.
Make sure you have 1 1/4″ headspace between the turkey and the rim of your jar. I have learned not to fill the jars exactly 1 1/4″ from the top. I stop at maybe 1 1/2″ or so. I noticed that some of the juices come out of the jar during processing. If you under-pack the jar just a smidge it takes care of that problem. In canning, headspace is the amount of space you leave between the rim of the jar and whatever you’re filling it with. Each thing requires a different headspace. I have a funnel that also has markings on the side to measure headspace. Here is a little headspace chart to follow:
- Leave 1-inch headspace for low-acid foods, vegetables and meats.
- Leave 1/2-inch headspace for high-acid foods, fruits and tomatoes.
- Leave 1/4-inch headspace for juicers, jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes.
Once the meat is packed in the jar, I added some of the broth I had just made. I filled the jar with broth, making sure to cover the meat but leave the proper amount of headspace. I use a Prepworks by Progressive Canning Funnel. I absolutely love that it has headspace measurements on the side and that it fits regular and wide mouth jars.
I also had quite a bit of broth leftover after filling the jars, so I went ahead and got it ready to can as well.
Wipe the rim of the jar off. Never forget this step! Even when you’re using a funnel, you are bound to get something on the rim. And if the rim isn’t clean, it won’t seal properly.
Put your lids and rings on the jars.
Since my jars were “cold packed”, I didn’t prep my pressure canner ahead of time. Being that my jars were still cold from putting the turkey and broth in them, I wanted to prevent my jars from breaking once the canning process started. I put 3 quarts of hot tap-water in the pressure canner and sat my jars down in. I gave them enough time to warm up a bit from the water before I even turned the burner on. Make sure to read your directions for your specific canner to see how much water they advise. Also, a little tip, to keep your jars from being “spotty” you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water.
The first thing you need to do is vent your canner. Venting means getting rid of the steam inside the canner so you can build up pressure. To vent, you put your lid on and make sure it’s sealed (follow the manufacturers instructions for this as well) and turn the heat up to medium or medium/high. You DO NOT want your weight on yet. When steam is steadily coming out of the vent, set your timer for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, you’re ready for the next step.
Put your weight on the canner, being careful of the steam that’s coming out, and wait for it to come to pressure. Once it’s up to pressure, set your timer for the appropriate time below. Remember to only start the timer once your canner is up to pressure. Waiting for the canner to get up to pressure sometimes takes several minutes, and it will feel like time stands still. Just be patient, it will get there.
75 minutes at 15 lbs for pint jars (if you are under 1,000 ft. altitude, use 10 lbs)
90 minutes at 15 lbs for quart jars (if you are under 1,000 ft. altitude, use 10 lbs)
You may need to adjust the heat up or down during this time. If you see your pressure rising above what it should be, reduce the heat. If you see it falling below what it should be, raise your heat. I normally don’t leave my kitchen while I’m pressure canning, just so I can keep a close watchful eye on the pressure.
When your timer goes off, turn the stove off. Actually, turn the stove off and walk away. Go take a much deserved seat for a while. You HAVE to leave the lid on and allow the pressure canner to return to normal pressure. I just let mine sit for quite a while. Once the pressure is down to normal you can remove the lid and take your jars out. Always remove the lid facing away from you so you don’t get burned with steam. I then use the jar lifter to remove them from the canner. And I always set them on a kitchen towel then cover them with another towel. I don’t want them to cool down too quickly.
If you are new to pressure canning, I highly suggest purchasing a book on it. The Ball Blue Book is a fabulous resource! There are some variables to consider, like altitude, and a book would be a great resource to get you familiar with pressure canning.
And nothing is quite as satisfying after a long, exhausting day of canning than seeing all those jars full of food you prepared with love for your family. Give yourself a high-five!
Jar Lifter –Prepworks by Progressive One Handed Canning Jar Lifter