This week was busy and stressful for me. I had a cousin and his wife coming for a visit. I hadn't seen him in 52 years and never met his wife. They planned to come in Thursday and stay for a couple of days however, they called on Wednesday while I was in between appointments, to tell me they were on their way and would arrive in about 3 hours! Yep! You guessed it.
MY plan was to get up Thursday morning and do some cooking and cleaning. Needless to say, there was a good chance they could arrive home before I did . . . after a minute of panic, I thought . . . well, IF I can beat them home by about 15 minutes, all will be well. I did and that gave me just enough time to freshen the guest bathroom and vaccuum the living room. Now what about dinner?
Well, dinner was a piece of cake . . . I've been canning meats for a number of years now and when I have meats all cooked and fork tender in the jar, I can create all sorts of good home style cooking in a matter of minutes! Truly!
The first few choices that ran through my head were:
Sauerkraut & Kielbasa or smoked sausage;
Beef Stew or Beef and Noodles;
Pulled Pork or Turkey & Dressing;
Chicken & Noodles; Chicken Casserole or Chicken & Dumplings!
Seriously I could have prepared and set any of them on the table in less than 30 minutes from the time I walked in the door. I decided on Chicken & Dumplings, a comfort food if there ever was one and a huge favorite in my family. Since I had canned chicken just last week (a local store had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.49 a pound) I was good to go. But then, I still had canned chicken from several years ago so I opted to use that up first.
When canning meats, you MUST use a pressure canner. You can roast or precook the meat first if you want to, but most of the time it is quicker and easier to just pack the raw meat and process it. You may also opt to add broth or water if you choose, but it has been my experience they are not needed (except for ground meats or processed meats).
You can also season it any way you choose. My personal preference is to add just a pinch of garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart of Kosher or canning salt, then pack in the meat; wipe the rims and seal tightly. Process pints for 75 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure and 90 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure for quarts. That's it! Now how easy is that? In about three hours time you can process two batches (8 pints per batch) and have 16 meals for ready consumption! Each pint will hold about one pound of fresh meat (trimmed of visible fat).
We have also canned hamburger meat or ground turkey but I do recommend precooking it so that you don't end up with a solid glob of meat. I do add a little broth to the ground meat and also to thick slices of processed meats such as smoked sausage or Kielbasa. For raw chicken, turkey, pork or beef (cut up as you desire to use it - cubed, chunked or in steaks) I simply leave enough head space and it creates it's own broth.
Need chicken salad in a hurry? Open up some and there you go! Need to take a meal to a sick friend? No need to wait for meat to thaw. Unexpected or early arriving guests? Not a problem Need to take it easy for a hectic day? Serve up a scrumptious meal that tastes slow simmered in nothing flat. Rachel Ray? You have nothing on me. I've been serving 30 minute (sometimes 15 or 20 minute) meals for decades.
This spring, a friend made the comment that when her power was out for an entire week (from the April 27th tornadoes that ravaged our county and state of Alabama), as they worked to save the meats in their freezer, she told me that she just kept thinking about me and my canned meat!