Every year, we get a quarter beef from a local farmer, and every year there’s just a few cuts of meat lingering at the bottom of the chest freezer when I get the call to let me know the new beef is headed to the butcher. This year, in an effort to clean out the freezer and make room for more, I decided to put my new pressure canner to work!
When I first told Mike I was going to pressure can meat, he looked at me like I had three heads. Meat? Gross. Then I reminded him that he eats tuna that comes in a can. I’ll grant you, if you didn’t grow up around home-canned meats, the idea that MEAT can be preserved in a jar and stored on a shelf does seem pretty foreign. My mother regularly canned venison when I was a kid, so it’s never seemed strange to me and I can assure you first-hand it is TASTY stuff.
Why Can Beef?
So, WHY would you want to CAN meat when you could just keep it in the freezer? I can give you a few good reasons:
- If you have limited freezer space, it frees up space for other things that need to be frozen.
- Buying and running a second (or larger) freezer is expensive.
- In power outages, canned meat is safe from thawing and spoiling.
- Canning tenderizes cuts of meat that otherwise have to be cooked low and slow.
- Canned meat = quick dinners for busy families!
I have a very bad habit of forgetting to thaw things for dinner, then having to scramble to find something to cook when I get home from work at 6PM. Having canned beef cubes on the shelf saves me a lot of time and headaches, as well as being great for all the other reasons mentioned.
P.S. You can also use these same steps for canning venison, should you be lucky enough to have a hunter in your family!!
Equipment: What You’ll Need to Can Beef Cubes
- Pressure canner – BEEF MUST BE PRESSURE CANNED!
I use an All American 21½ quart (model 921) canner and can highly recommend it.
- Beef, cubed with fat trimmed away (see below).
- Clean, sanitized canning jars, rings, and lids.
Use pints or quarts depending on your family’s needs. Wide-mouth jars are easier to pack, but not necessary.
- Canning/pickling salt, if desired.
Preparing and Canning your Beef
Note: ALWAYS follow the safety instructions for you YOUR pressure canner. I’m by no means an expert, so please do your research and take all necessary precautions to say safe!
Ideally, select leaner cuts of beef such as round steak, sirloin, or chuck roasts for canning. Remember, you’ll be canning under pressure, so these traditionally-tougher cuts of meat will be nice and tender after being canned! In my case, I had an abundance of leftover sirloins and round steaks, so that’s what I used. Cut your meat into 1-inch cubes, and trim away the fat.
Once your meat is all cubed, pack it into your jars leaving 1 inch of head space. If you wish to add salt, pour a bit (½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon , depending on your preferences) into each jar on top of the meat. Wipe the rims of all your jars with a damp paper cloth. Put a lid on each jar, then screw on a ring fingertip-tight. (Meaning, only as tight as you can get it with your finger tips.)
Load the jars into your canner following the directions for your specific model. Processing times will be:
75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure for elevations less than 1,000 feet.
75 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure for elevations above 1,000 feet.
90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure for elevations less than 1,000 feet.
90 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure for elevations above 1,000 feet.
My elevation is 1,220 feet, so I used 15 pounds of pressure. Not sure what the elevation of your city is? Try googling your city name plus the word “elevation” — e.g. “Pittsburgh, PA elevation”. Usually you’ll find the answer in the first couple links returned. Yay, technology! If in doubt, you can also contact your local extension office.
Once your jars are done processing, follow the directions for your canner model for depressurizing and opening the canner. (This is important folks – though pressure canners are nothing to be SCARED of, they do require safety procedures to be followed carefully!) Set your jars out onto the counter (use a towel or hot pad if necessary to protect your counter tops) to cool. Once cooled, remove the rings and test the lids to make sure they are sealed.
So, what do you do with canned beef?
The beauty of this meat is that it’s not frozen and is basically pre-cooked, so you have an easy meal starter at your finger tips, by just going to your pantry! It’s nothing short of a life saver when I get home from work late, have barn chores waiting, and have no idea what I’m going to feed my family.
My personal favorite (pictured above) is SO quick and easy: Open a can of beef and pour it into a saucepan on the stove. Fill up the now-empty jar with water, and add that to the saucepan. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste and bring to a slow boil. While you’re waiting for that to heat, put some rice on to cook as well. (Personally, I like jasmine rice and cook it in my rice cooker, so it’s as easy as dumping in the rice and water then pressing a button!) Once your meat is at a boiling, I use cornstarch and water to thicken it into a gravy. Serve poured over the rice with veggies on the side.
If you’re not a gravy sort of person, the beef can also be used as a starter for soup or stew. Or–confession time–it’s pretty darn tasty to just toss it in a pan, heat it up, and snack on the cubes!
Trust me, once you try it for the first time, you’ll be a canned-meat convert too. (Mike sure was!)
If you try it, let me know in the comments! And please share your recipe ideas for using your canned beef too!