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You might be thinking, “Why would I want to can chicken?” I understand, because I used to think that, too! Until the day, around 10 years ago, that I found a 40 lb. box of chicken breasts at the grocery store for $0.79 per pound. At the time, I usually paid around $1.99 for boneless skinless chicken breasts, so I primarily cooked with whole chickens or just legs, in order to keep our grocery costs down. I was very excited to find good quality boneless, skinless breasts for such a low price, and I had to buy them!
I’d heard that you could can chicken, which is what I would need to do, since I knew I didn’t have that much room in my freezer. My life’s motto is, ‘How hard can it be?’ so I actually bought two boxes. What person in their right mind buys 80 pounds of chicken breasts!? Luckily, I had a large pressure canner at home and lots of empty jars.
After arriving home with all that chicken, and finding directions at National Center for Home Food Preservation for canning it, I pulled out all of my canning supplies. My 8 and 7 year old kids wanted to help, so we put the babies down for naps and got busy. By the time the babies woke up, 14 jars were canned, and the rest of the chicken was in jars, cleaned with lids on, ready for the pot! The pressure canner takes a long time because after loading it with jars you have to bring it up to pressure, then after the recommended time cooking, you have to let the pressure dissipate before opening it. So the pressure canner is the bottleneck in the whole process. But it really wasn’t hard to load/cook/unload several times through the rest of the day. I was very surprised it was so easy!
I had never tasted home-bottled chicken before, though I figured we liked the canned Kirkland chicken so we couldn’t go too wrong. But it is scrumptious! It is moist and tender and will fall apart into perfect shreds with very little work! The taste is to-die for, too! Since then, whenever there is a fantastic sale on chicken breasts, I buy a ton and replenish my supply. I try to never be without several jars of canned chicken.
I use my canned chicken in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken. We love it in Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, wraps, Chicken Pot Pie, in Chicken Salad, on BBQ chicken pizza and more! It makes preparing dinner a SNAP. Seriously, you can skip the hardest step, having to prep and cook the meat, and save yourself a ton of time! You may not even have to turn your stove on! Plus, your meat probably costs less than half of what it would have, and is extremely delicious! AND it’s ridiculously easy! Sold yet? Good! Now here are the directions.
- Fresh boneless chicken breasts. You will use 2-3 pounds of chicken per quart jar, or half that for pint jars if you have a smaller family. There are ten of us, so I use quart jars.
- Salt. I use Redmond salt, but whatever you typically use is fine.
- Pressure canner. Mine is 23-quart and will fit 7 quart jars at a time. You must pressure can meat, you cannot water bathe it!
- Jars, rings, and new lids. Do not ever use lids that have been previously used, as they may not seal properly.
- Remove visible fat from the chicken breasts, then cut into large chunks. I just quarter each breast so they pack easily into the jar.
- Thoroughly was your jars and bands with hot, soapy water, or run them through the dishwasher.
- Fill a small saucepan with water and bring the lids and rings to a simmer, but do not boil, as that may warp the rubber on the lids, encouraging seal failure. This is to sterilize them.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Fill each jar to the neck with raw chicken chunks, then pour 1 tsp. salt over the top.
- Fill each jar with boiling water, just to the neck, 1″ below the rim, to cover the chicken.
- Wipe the rim of each jar with hot washcloth to remove any contaminants that would prevent the jar from sealing.
- Place hot, sterile lids and rings on jars.
- Read the instruction manual that came with your pressure canner before continuing! I am not a professional and I take no responsibility for injuries or accidents that occur in your home.
- Place jars in a few inches of warm water (not hot! Do not place cold jars into hot water or they will break.) inside the canner. Place the lid on and tighten. Turn the burner on and begin to heat. Let the steam vent out for about 10 minutes before placing the pressure regulator (the petcock) on the valve stem. Bring up to 10 pounds pressure slowly, under constant watchful care.
- Process at 10 pounds pressure; quarts for 90 minutes and pints for 75 minutes. Do not place cold jars into hot water, they will break. Replace some of the hot water from the canner with cold water to moderate the temperature before adding jars for subsequent batches.
- The jars will take a few minutes to seal after removing from the pressure canner. You will be able to tell when they have sealed by pressing lightly on the middle of the lid. It should NOT flex up and down. It’s okay if you see some of the liquid escaping from under the lid and ring — they should still seal. The pressure within the jar is just trying to equalize with the room pressure.
- Do not disturb the jars as they cool. After the recommended 12 hours, you may wipe the jars off, test the seals, remove rings, date the lids with a permanent marker, and store in a cool, dry place. Make sure jars are all properly sealed before storing. If not, place it in the fridge and use the chicken up within a week.
Be very careful when pressure canning. I’ve never had anything bad happen, but my mom always told me, as she was canning, that if I lifted the petcock on the top, or if I removed the lid before the pressure had dissipated, that it could blow a hole through the roof. I don’t know if that is true or not, because I’m not willing to try it to see, ha, ha! Now there is an idea for Mythbusters!
You should also check your pressure canner instructions, and check your local agricultural extension, because directions change a little based on altitude.
*Food Storage Tip: It is very wise to have some food storage (and water storage) in your home in case of an emergency, like a natural disaster. We like to store large amounts of grains, legumes, canned goods and things that will last a long time. But it would be especially valuable to have things like this canned chicken stored, for both nutrition and convenience, but also for morale, because eating straight legumes would get old fast.
Pin these useful instructions for later reference!