Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Can Ground Beef

I've been so busy that I haven't felt like posting lately. I have been canning though, I assure you. I've been keeping my eye on the price of ground beef for a while now and finally one of my grocery stores had it for $1.49/lb.
I hadn't ever canned ground beef before but I was looking forward to it since my chicken turned out to be so easy. 

Let's get started
Prep work. 
  • Make sure your jars are clean.
  • Start warming your jar lids on the stove. Do not boil, you just want the rubber rings to be gummy.

1. Get your meat. 
Usually you want to get the leanest meat you can. Canning it makes it super moist so it's a great way to use the less expensive cuts of meat and still have them be really juicy. The stuff on sale at my store was only 73% lean though so I made some alterations to the precooking process.

2.
Working in batches, brown meat. It took me about 3 batches to brown 5 lbs. I only did 5 lbs at a time because I changed the recipe for the next 5 lbs. And it is way less intimidating that way.

You don't have to brown your meat all the way, it's just for texture when you open the can. Some people don't like it really soft so the browning gives it some definition. As my meat was getting done, I would drain it, then stick it in a stock pot with a little water on low heat to keep it warm. 

Also, here's a little trick I learned about browning ground beef in Chemistry. If you stick a little water in the pan while it browns, the fat and the water don't like each other and the water keeps the fat from reabsorbing into the meat. Sticking the meat into the stockpot works the same way. That is why I wasn't too worried about using a fattier package of ground beef than usual. 

3.
When each batch of meat is almost done, dump some onions in the pan to cook a bit. You don't want them in there too long because they have enough time to cook in the pressure canner. You just want to mix them evenly in with the meat. I used about 1/2 and onion per pound of meat.

4.
Line up your clean jars and using a funnel, carefully spoon your meat into the jars. About 1 lb of beef fits into each pint sized jar. You need about 1 1/4 inches of head space because the ground beef won't expand like the chicken did since it is already cooked.

5.
But, because I'm not putting the meat in raw like I did the chicken breasts, the meat won't make enough of its own juice so I need to add some. This is some of the water from the stock pot that held the beef. It turned into a mild beef broth that I used to fill my jars with. I just used my gravy separator (which by the way, I love!) to make sure I didn't put any fat back in. Fill the jars to cover all the meat, keeping in mind your head space. As you pour, take a rubber (or non-metallic) spatula and work out any air bubbles that might be in the meat.

Option 2. 
On my second batch of ground beef, I used tomato sauce to fill my jars with. These jars I'm planning on using in spaghetti, sloppy joes, chili or anything that I would normally end up putting tomato sauce in anyway. This way the meat is already flavored. I watered it down by a ratio of 1:1 to make it easier to pour.

6.
If you want your meat seasoned a little bit more, put 1 tsp of pickling salt in each pint. The flavor will mix as it is in the pressure canner. Make sure only to use pickling salt. Regular table salt will make your jars turn foggy. You could also just put 1 tsp of  beef bouillon in instead.

7.
Make sure to wipe the rims of your jars really well with a hot, clean towel. You don't want any grease on the rim to prevent your lids from sealing.

8.
You are ready to put the lids on the jars. Use a magnetic lid lifter to avoid burning yourself. I've don't this one too many times when trying to just use a fork to lift them.


9.
Put your jars in your pressure canner, and follow the instructions that came with it for pressure and timing based on altitude. This is the Presto 1781 23-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner. For ground beef pints at my altitude I used 13 lbs of pressure for 75 min. For a step by step process in pressure canning check out my post on canning chicken

10. Ta Da!

So they might not be the prettiest looking jars of food, but believe me, it tastes fantastic. The tiny bit of congealed fat at the top is totally normal. I made tacos out of my first jar and no joke it was exactly like the taco meat you get at Taco Bell. Mmmm so good! I'm very happy with how it turned out. 

Don't forget to label your jars! This meat will stay good for a year or longer. If you have a jar that didn't seal, just stick it in the fridge and use it soon. It's fun to see how your meat turned out anyway.

As with any canned meat, the USDA recommends boiling/ heating the meat for 10 minutes once it is opened just to make sure all bacteria is killed.

Ground beef is one of the things I'd been wanting to try canning for a long time. I'm glad I finally did it and am happy to post about it. I'd love to hear some of the things you've been wanting to try too. 

Happy Canning

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