Q & A with The Wolf Pack : Canning Meat

Question from – JDF in SC

I have been successfully canning fruits and vegetables for over 20 years. I am just beginning to try canning meats. I have a Ball Blue Book and have followed the instructions for canning meat sauce.

However, after I had processed them, some of the liquid had cooked out of the jars. I did not over-fill the jars and my jars sealed. Is this something that is normal and will my sauce be safe to eat? I hate to throw out all that food but I don’t want to kill my family either. Any tips you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Was this a tomato based sauce like spaghetti sauce? Also, was the water red when you opened the lid?

    • Sometimes liquid boils out of jars when processing. My concern would be if it was a small amount of clear colored liquid and not the thick sauce itself.
      If the actual sauce (pureed tomatoes or vegetables) leaked out it is very possible some is stuck under the lid and it won’t stay sealed.
      If it was only a clear liquid and it was not much at all, say like an inch or less, and the lids are sealed I would set the jars on the counter out of the way for a week or two to make sure the lids don’t pop.
      If one does, eat right away or reprocess with new flats and less product in the jars.
      I would eat it.
      If there was no discoloring of the water in the pot, then your sauce just cooked down or compressed. Then it is perfect good to go on the shelf.
      I leave a lot of head room, at least 1-2 inches when processing meat because the liquid in the jars will boil. When they do the fat is always at the top. The fat can get under the lid and sometimes it will not seal correctly.
      The same with heavy thick sauces
      Nothing worse than processing a bunch of meat only to discover a few months later that the jars popped.
      Been there……got the tshirt.
      You already know this but make sure your pressure canner is working perfectly and let it cool down by itself. No rushing it.

  2. Zeker98 says:

    I have canned a lot of protien from tomato based to broth based. It is very normal to loose some of the liqued and for it to be in the water. Even when you can lets say bacon you will still get some of the grease to come out and into the water from the pressure canner. It has to do actually with the depressuring of the canner. As the canner cools down and the pressure slowly releases the material in the jar will be still boiling causing some expansion and it will release some of the liqueds onto the water.

    If you are worried you can pack it a little less but you may find you get to much head space. As well alway let the the pressure build down on it’s own do not rush it or it will act just like a pop that you shook up and opened.

  3. momengineer says:

    I have only pressure canned turkey and ground beef (each were plain, meat/broth only). Yes, some liquid leaked out during processing, however, as long as its properly sealed, I wouldn’t worry. We have just eaten a turkey pot pie yesterday that I made with pressure canned meat from last thanksgiving, with no ill effects…

    • momengineer,
      When you make the turkey pot pie, I assume that you baked or somehow cooked them. That cooking can kill bacteria or denature toxins and render them harmless, even if the original can was contaminated.

  4. Your food is fine. I always get leakage to some degree even when I follow ever single tip to avoid leakage.

    The biggest worry on leakage with meat is that the fats will somehow get in the seal and pop it later. The most obvious time that you will know if that happened is when you are washing the jars before you put them in the pantry. When you clean the rim with the rings off any jars that aren’t well sealed will lose their lids. If you are still worried after that then put the jars at the front of your shelves in the pantry so that you can check on them at random. But I’ve rarely had a lid pop after washing, and that was a lid for a jelly.

  5. I’ve canned chicken, beef, pork, and ground beef with no ill effects. I actually utilize the Ball Complete Canning book. It’s about 3 times as thick as the blue book.

    As long as you have a seal on your lid you’re good to go. About once a month I go thru my stock and press on each and every lid to make sure it’s still sealed. If I find one that isn’t then I can make a determination on what to do (eat it or throw it out). The last thing I want is an unsealed jar on my shelf for a year or more before I find it. So far no broken seals 🙂

    As someone else had said… if you’re having liquid spill out during canning then you don’t have enough head space in the jar. I recently encountered this with some blackberries that I water bath canned in very light syrup. They did still seal though. I’ll be keeping an eye on them.

    • hvaczach says:

      My mother just gave me a copy havn’t tried any recipes from it yet. I figure between the complete and the blue book should have about all the info one would ever need.

  6. Encourager says:

    Great questions about canning meats! I have not canned meats, only fruits, jams, jellies, etc. I am glad I read these comments because if leaking out of the jars had happened to me the first time canning meats, I would have freaked and probably tossed it all. Whew…you guys just saved me a lot of money! Thanks!

  7. Miriam Kearney says:

    I hope we can keep this thread going a bit. I have some additional questions re canning meat.
    I want to do what is called ‘raw pack’ canning of boneless chicken thighs (and boned ones as well). Since I would probably use these to make curry (at least a bunch of them) do you think it would be all right to rub the curry paste on the meat and put some carmelized onions in the jar with the meat? I understand that if you are raw packing you don’t want to add liquid but I would really like to do this.
    I haven’t had a lot of success canning meat that has already been cooked – I think the double cooking that happens in the jar is just too much for it.
    I never thought about canning bacon. Mostly I used bacon already cut up before cooking – could I can that do you think?
    I’ve also tried canning beans but they came out so mushy it didn’t work very well. Anybody have suggestions? I don’t like my beans cooked too much.

    • Zeker98 says:

      Canning bacon is not to Hard, You need wide mouth Jars, I will attach a link for the best articale I have found on it yet. I have done my own this way 50 Pounds worth and it works great.


      As for raw packing chicken I have used this recipe and it works great.


    • I always raw pack my canned chicken. Sometimes I’ll add some Rosemary and Garlic, sometimes it’s just salt, but usually there is some spice added to the chicken when I can it.

    • I always raw pack chicken. Any herbs and seasonings you want.
      I know an old couple who packs their chickens dressed out and plucked with the skin on and the legs still attached. It is freaky looking!
      They cut the legs off before the eat the chicken. They swear the glucosamine in the legs helps with their achy joints.

      I like to brown beef, wild game and sometimes pork to get that good flavor. At least give it a good sear. Pack it with broth or water, garlic and salt.
      I have canned bacon (meat candy) in the paper, but now prefer just to do the bacon bits. Because I am lazy. Well, not really lazy, but I have a lot to do.
      Brown the bits, spoon into jars. I use 1/2 pints. It is OK if there is grease at the bottom of the jar.
      I love the flavor of bacon (who doesn’t) and it can spice up a lot of boring food. And make good food taste even better!

      For beans, Just soak them overnight, rinse, add fresh water, get them hot, pack in jars and pressure. They shouldn’t be too mushy. I only add beans up to the shoulders of the jars and add water to the bottom screw ring. They will still soak up some water. Don’t forget to put some bacon in there. Hehe.

      The other day my friend told me they have bacon sundaes at Denny’s!

      • seeuncourt says:

        I saw 6 bacon donuts at the grocery store today….

        If i can game meat, should i sear it, raw pack it, cook it first? Game being deer, elk, moose, or antelope.

        • I tried Raw Packing wild game and I didn’t like the taste. The next time I coocked it and packed it and It was much better. I Can Mainly Deer.

        • Sear it good in chunks or steaks. Seasoned with salt and pepper. It will be mostly cooked. You can stew it or fully cook also. Same result. It will tenderize in the jar.
          I can tell by smell of the fresh meat if it will be overly gamey. I do not like super gamey greasy meat like bear and goose.
          I call duck “flying livers”.
          For gamey meat, I add a good bouillon or hearty beef stock as the liquid. Garlic and a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar.
          Our fast food dinner:
          Heat up a jar of elk of venison stew meat or steak. (Not in the jar, silly) A quick mushroom red wine brown gravy drizzled over the top served over a bed of rice and a veggie. I can have this ready faster than you get through the drive thru.

          • Encourager says:

            I have never canned venison. However, I understand that to remove the gamey taste you can soak the meat in a salt and vinegar in water solution. Do this for at least 72 hours before cooking it. Change out the solution every few hours at first, (you can lengthen this time as less blood is pulled out). Continue until the solution is pale pink to clear and the meat is pink rather than red. You can look up online the amount of salt and vinegar you need. Rinse well before cooking/canning.

            • Encourager,
              Part of the issue with venison is where you harvest it. Where I’m from in Wesern PA, the white tail deer are rather small, and live primarily on a diet of acorns and browse. Here in Ohio, they tend to be largers much of the herd are literally grain fed and have a distinctively less gamey taste because of it.

              • Encourager says:

                So would that soak work, do you think, OP? Our deer here are corn and soybean fed, too. Probably GMO.

                • Encourager,
                  I’ve heard of a soak like that one, but make sure you check your salt an vinegar levels, since osmosis will put salt into the meat if it’s a higher concentration than what is already in the meat. You could probably make the last soak with some additional ingredients to work as a marinade.

            • patientmomma says:

              Dumb question, but,,, when you are soaking the venison in the vinegar /salt, do you refrigerate it? I know people who don’t and they say it’s fine. I’ve never tried before so need some guidance please.

              • Encourager says:

                Sorry it has taken me so long to respond, patientmomma. (good thing you are patient, lol!)

                I would most definitely refrigerate any meat I was koshering (soaking in salt water) especially if it was a long soak of more than a few hours. Just my opinion.

                • Encourager says:

                  Oops, posted too soon. I meant to add that I have been out of town and there was no internet service and no cell phone service.

                  Actually, it was rather nice!

    • Winomega says:

      Miriam Kearney

      I have raw-packed turkey and intend to experiment with spice-rubs since the only thing I’ve made with canned meat is curry. I’m wondering what a little coconut meat or coconut flour would do.

    • hvaczach says:

      I apck onion in everything I can. I also pack potaotoes in my hash, and with chicken and beef sometimes. Often when we have left overs I freeze until I have enough proteins for a canner full then can the lot. This is when I often do the chicken or beef and potatoes. Really turns out well and I always season as desired, try onion soup mix with deer or pork really adds a nice flavor to the juice about a third of an envalop for a pint and about a half for a quart turns out nice.

  8. BUlldog94 says:

    Agree with others. I’ve canned a lot of chicken and pork. Sometimes more liquid comes than others. NO biggie, other than the parts not covered by the liquid may not look as pretty as the others after a year. Good job for prepping !

  9. How long is the shelf life for canned meats?

    • Do you want a textbook answer or the truth ? Still eating steak canned in 2003. If you store it in a cool dark dry place it keeps along time.

      • Fixit – I agree with you. Textbook answer would be approximately one year depending on how it was processed and stored. Like all things related to food common sense needs to rule. I have tuna canned several years ago that I am eating and it is fine.

        Use the rules of look (at the jar and the contents), check the seal (should still be tight – if the lid is not sealed discard and do not do the next tests), once opened look at the product (if the color is off discard) and sniff (if the product smells bad do not use).

        Botulism is rare these days but can occur. So be safe and use current, tested recipes. Technology has changed as well as the nasty stuff we are trying to protect ourselves from. For years they recommend that tuna be pressure canned for 90 minutes now they know it needs to be pressure canned for 100 minutes to be safe.

    • hvaczach says:

      I have seen several places on line that say Five year shelf live can easily be expected. And I have some stuff from Jan 2012 that is just as tasty now as in feb 2012.

  10. FreeRangePagan says:

    Awesome. Can’t wait to get home and try putting up some meats.

    • hvaczach says:

      It is actually kind of fun, and great for a “supper right now” chicken and corned beef hash are my families favorites.

  11. Bruce Howard says:

    I have 15 years experience canning meat and it is normal for some to be expressed out of the top of the jar while sterilizing.

    This is caused by the pressure of the gases being forced out of the jar and it takes food particles with it.

    So long as the jar is properly sealed, the food is safe.

    Any jars that are not sealed properly at the time of completion of the serilizing process, start all over again with the sterilization process with fresh jars and seals or use to eat now or freeze.

    Any jars that loose their seal at a later date, discard.

  12. Bam Bam says:

    Yep–what everyone else said. It is normal for some of the contents to leak out when the cans depressurize. As long as the lid is sealed, you are fine.

    If you are a newbie to pressure canning, read Repair Mama’s winning post.


  13. I worried about this too, someone told me to use boiling liquid over the raw meat, then make sure to let the canner cool down good before you open it, these steps help minimize the liquid loss.

  14. According to the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning when raw packing meat you do not add liquid. Hot packing meat is when you add boiling liquid to the jars.

  15. seeuncourt says:

    Does anyone can fish? Last year I froze fish in milk jugs full of water. Great preservation for the fish, but huge space hog in the freezer. Wondering if i am able to can fish, and if so, what’s the shelf life?

    • hvaczach says:

      I have heard of people canning it even oyesters. They say meat will keep canned up to five years not positive on fish but would assume similiar. If you have access the ball blue book should tell you stable shelf life along with recipes.

    • Yes. Can it! The shelf life is as long as any other canned meat.

  16. hvaczach says:

    Loosing a little juice is very common, I would say if the lid stays sealed you should be fine, but may I suggest not canning the meat in the pasta sauce. I have done this and for what ever reason have not found it to taste very good. Doing corn beef hash, chicken soup, beef and potatoes all delicious but the hamberger in the tomato sauce I did not care for.

  17. Can you waterbath cooked meat or only pressure can it. And what if I got freezer burn but still smells good. New to canning. Thanks

    • Winomega says:

      BJ the jar contents don’t get hot enough to properly sterilize the meat until it’s at 10 pounds or higher. Freezer burn doesn’t sound too bad.

    • BJ,
      There is a basic rule of thumb for water bath vs. pressure canning ANY food. All foods have the possibility of containing spores of clostridium botulinum, a spore based anaerobic (grows in an environment free of oxygen) bacteria that excretes botulinum toxin (a neurotoxin) when propagating itself. There are two ways to stop this particular critter which are accomplished in the two canning methods by different mechanisms.
      In water bath canning, the water temperature never exceeds 212 F (100 C) and may be less in higher elevations, and since the clostridium botulinum requires 240 F (116C) to kill it, the method required is a high acid (pH less than 4.6) food. Some foods are high acid by nature, and others can be acidified with things like lemon juice or vinegar.
      For low acid food, including meats, the canning temperature must exceed 240 F for some amount of time (10 minutes if I recall correctly), and this requires a pressure cooker to achieve the higher temperatures. You will note that canning times are generally well over 10 minutes, to ensure that all food in the cooker has been heated to 240+ for the required time.

      Some additional food facts on clostridium botulinum.

      • Babies should never be fed “raw” honey before they are 1 year old. It takes this much time for the infant to develop the proper flora in the intestine and the high enough levels of stomach acid to kill the organism.
      • If you make your own oils infused with garlic or onion, you should also acidify them to keep the organism from reproduction in the oil covered garlic, which is an anaerobic environment.
      • In water bath canning, food that gets moldy should be discarded, since the molds can reduce the acidity of the food.

      Sorry for the long winded explanation; however, I’ve always thought that understanding “why” is a better thing to know than just “how”.

  18. Chuck Findlay says:

    I found a great site for information on canning meat that has lots of useful info. Take a look. http://www.povertyprepping.blogspot.com/

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