Sunday, May 1, 2011

Canning Chicken with Re-useable Canning Lids

So I tried canning chicken several weeks ago but I'm only just now getting around to blogging about it. Pesky Spring Break vacations and such have kept me from my blog :)

So I wasn't initially going to bother canning chicken. I already store the store bought chicken in a can, which I don't mind the taste of, and it stretches pretty far. However, curiosity got the better of me as so many people sing the praises of home canning chicken. To make it interesting I decided to can boneless thighs and I used re-usable canning lids.

If you haven't heard of re-usable lids they are made by Tattler and supposedly you can use them over and over rather than having to throw them out after each use like the metal ones. I've been wanting to try them out for awhile because no matter how many lids I store, I'll eventually run out. Re-usable ones seem like a smarter way to go.

To start off, I boiled my lids and their rubber ring, just like you would with regular lids. The white lid you see in the pot is just like the regular metal canning lid, although it's not metal. The red ring you see is a rubber gasket that provides the seal. It is also re-usable.

You do not need to precook the chicken. It will cook as it boils in the canner. I put 1 tsp of chicken bouillon in the bottom of each jar. This is not necessary but I was interested in having really good broth for chicken soup. I cut all the fat off my boneless, skinless thighs, and then put them into the jars. There is no need to add any liquid. You should not pack them down tightly but they cook down quite a bit during the canning process. Next time I will put more in than I did this time. Make sure that you leave an inch of head room though.

Now the jars are ready to go into my canner. You can see in this photo the three jars in front showing the three steps to putting the lids on. First make sure your jar rim is clean. Then put on the rubber gasket. Next place the white lid on top. Finally, put on the metal ring. Tighten as you normally would, then turn BACK a 1/4 turn. That is the only thing that was different about using these lids.

I had my first canning accident as I put in my first jar of chicken. I had no sooner put it in the canner then I heard a giant CRACK! Ugh, the bottle had cracked and the bottom came off completely. It was my own fault, I had let the jars get too cool and then put them in the hot canner. I had to throw that whole jar away. Bummer. I ran hot water on the rest of the jars before putting them in the canner. Thankfully there were no other problems.

Here are my jars of chicken all done hot out of the canner. See that liquid? That is pure chicken broth baby! YUM! Ok, I know it doesn't look that appetizing. In fact my MIL came over, looks very skeptically at my jars and said, "Um, can I ask what that is?" I tried to answer as matter of factly as possible. "It's canned chicken." She said, "But you aren't going to eat it like that?" "Well, you certainly can, it's fully cooked, but I'll most likely be shredding it for enchiladas and such." She responded, "Well, you really are Miss Betty Homemaker aren't you?" LOL! I know we preparedness people look like freaks to the outside world. I'm totally ok with that.

So now for the bad news. I had a 50% fail rate on my re-useable lids. Half of them did not seal. However, I'm pretty sure that this was user error. I think I might have loosened them too much before putting them in the canner. So I'm going to give them another shot because I really like them. I definitely like the whole concept. I've used several jars of chicken since canning them and I just put the lids and rings in the dishwasher, and they are ready to be used again.

Here are a few of the items I have made with my canned chicken. It has been super convenient and really yummy. I absolutely love just grabbing a jar of chicken and using it in meals.

The first thing I made was chicken noodle soup so I used the broth and everything. I just dumped the whole jar into the crockpot and shredded up the chicken. It was really good, flavorful soup.

I also made homemade toquitos. Wow, they were so awesome! Usually these would be a lot more work but all I had to do was drain the chicken, shred it with a fork, and add it to my recipe. Awesome!

Finally tonight we had homemade chicken pot pie. Again, it would have taken a lot longer without the convenience of just grabbing the jar and shredding the chicken. Absolute perfection if I do say so myself. :)

I'm definitely a fan, and will continue to can both hamburger and chicken. I have a date to help my SIL can her meat too so I'm sure that she'll be converted soon as well. I find that the chicken goes a long way. We've only used 3 quart jars so far and we are feeding 8 people. I'm planning my canned meat as part of my 3 month supply since it does need to be rotated regularly. Canned meat expires in about a year.