Rosey the Riveter

Monday, October 24, 2011

Canned Chicken

I got a great deal on Amish-raised chicken breasts through Quail Cove Farms, and on Thursday it was all delivered right to my door (along with 40lbs of sweet potatoes.  Seriously, what was I thinking?)  I could only fit 6 of the 12 packages in my freezer, which meant either plugging in the upright that is out in the garage and raising the electric bill even higher, OR pressure canning it for shelf-stable storage.  Needless to say, the canning won out.

On Sunday, I cooked up the chicken and added carrots, celery, and onion to make some broth at the same time.  After it all cooled, I de-boned the meat and skimmed the fat off the broth. 

This morning, I packed the meat into freshly washed pint jars while boiling the broth.

I added a teaspoon of salt to each jar.  I think I could have gotten away with half a teaspoon, so we'll see what it tastes like.

Then I added the broth, leaving an inch and a quarter headspace.

I placed them in the pressure canner, then covered and waited for the steam.

Once the steam starts coming out at a steady pace, set the timer for 10 minutes.  This takes all the air out of the pot.

Place the pressure gauge on, and watch the pressure climb.

Once it reached 11 pounds of pressure, I started the timer.  Pints require 75 minutes... and most of those 75 minutes have to be spent in the kitchen, keeping an eye out and adjusting the stove to make sure the dial stays at 11 pounds.  This was a good time to wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, clean off the counters, sweep and mop the floor, etc. etc.

When processing time is up, turn off the stove and remove the pot to cool.  LIFT it, don't drag it off the stove. 
Once the pressure is back to zero and the lock pops down, take the gauge off and let it cool for 10 more minutes.  At this point, you can open the canner and admire your work.
Most of the jars sealed immediately.  One of them didn't, so I thought we'd have to use it for dinner.  But a couple hours later, I heard a ping and sure enough, it had sealed!
I learned a couple of good lessons.  The first is that I should NOT have tried to squeeze a canning session in this morning.  I started the process at about 7:30am...  and I was still late to my 10:45 meeting.  Next time, I'm picking a day when I have nowhere to be.

Also, the next time I get a good deal on chicken, I am hoping it will be on boneless, skinless breasts.  That way, I can pack them raw and not have to spend the time making the broth and deboning them, and waiting for the broth to cool to skim fat.  The processing time remains the same, so to me, it's a 'wasted step' to cook the chicken before.  Except there was no other way to get it off the bone, so I had no choice.

Finally, I've decided that I need to get another rack for the pressure canner so I can 'double up' and do 14 pints instead of 7.  It would be about 5 more minutes of work but result in twice the chicken, so that's a no-brainer.  Luckily, Amazon sells the extra racks for like $10.  Well worth it!

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