Thursday, February 12, 2015

How To Pressure Can Chicken + 12 Nifty Tips I Have Learned

After about 6 months of preparing, I realized I needed to learn about canning. Being a newbie, I fast realized there were so many things I didn't know to ask. Like, what is finger tight, what is a jiggle...
With that in mind, I want to share some of those "secrets" with you.

If I am able, I try to get as much clean and ready ahead of time. 

Washing my jars. 
TIP: I often put my rings in a mesh zippered bag so they don't fly all over the place in the dish washer. I don't put my new lids in the dishwasher.
To find the mesh bags:
 (associates link)

I always hand wash
 my lids with warm water and soap, then rinse well.
TIP: ALWAYS use new lids for pressure canning. You may use those "used" lids for everyday purposes like vacuum sealing, storing in fridge & opened jars.

Start gathering the equipment for canning.
Vinegar, my paper towels are close by, clean rings.
My timer, the weight for my canner, which is kept in this red bag in the following picture.

TIPS: I have this little bag, that I keep all my canning utensils, manual, etc., during canning. Things that I use for canning. I have a little "S" hook to hang it on my metal shelf in my kitchen. I also have extra sets of the utensils in here. Remember "two is one, one is none".
When it is not in use, I store it inside my pressure canner.
Also Mr. Perky came up with the idea of putting clean rings on an old paper towel holder. It is very convenient.

I grab several clean dishtowels & a new dish cloth. I have my washed & sterilized utensils out and my canning manual.
I also have started using these simple dark colored placements to sit my hot jars on when processing. There were about a dollar (I think I got them at Walmart). New dishcloths are not cheap, so this was a good alternative.
For people who are preparing, I have three sets of canning utensils.
1) In case they break or wear out. (two is one and one is none)
2) I also have found it handy if I drop a utensil or it gets contaminated, I don't have to stop everything and wash and sterilize them again.
You can get the utensil sets on Amazon

Gather everything & get set up. You should have your pressure canner, utensils, vinegar, paper towels (or clean cloth), clean dish towels, wash cloth, timer, jars, lids and rings. Oh & your chicken...
I talk often about Zaycon chicken, I honestly believe it is the best deal going. you may find  better price, BUT, their quality is beyond belief. I mean, look at the size of this chicken breast.
I have other posts about Zaycon here, if you want to learn. Or just click here on the referral link (no obligation to buy) Referral Link for Zaycon Chicken

Get your pots ready.

Interesting the National Center for HomeFood Preservation statesEmpty jars used for vegetables, meats, and fruits to be processed in a pressure canner need not be presterilized. It is also unnecessary to presterilize jars for fruits, tomatoes, and pickled or fermented foods that will be processed 10 minutes or longer in a boiling-water canner."  I started implementing this recently. 

Pressure Canner: Please NOTE you MUST use a pressure canner when canning meat.
Check the vent hole on the lid of your canner. Make sure you can actually see light through it. If not, you can clean it with a pipe cleaner, or simply blow air through it.

TIP: Run your finger gently around the rim of the jar checking for nicks. It it is nicked, throw that jar away.

The sink...I wash my sink, then clean it with vinegar.

Wash your hands, well & often! This is raw chicken we are dealing with.

TIP: You actually are able to write on the lids with sharpie, before or after you wash them and the writing will stay on.

The Ball canning Jar Company has recently been talking about changes in processing their lids by NOT simmering you lids

EDITED: With all new Ball canning lids, you no longer have to boil them & sterilize them. Just wash them well with soap and water. I personally still keep a small pan going with simmering water in case I accidentally drop a lid or it touches the meat when I am putting the lid on. It does happen. This way I don't have to stop and rewash what has been contaminated. 

Wash your chicken and start cutting.
First you trip off the excess fat, then cut into 6" chunks. 

TIP: Note the lines on the edge of the cutting board. I have marked it with a sharpie at 6” increments. I use that as a guide to cut my meat into chucks that will easily fit in the pint sized jars.

Reserve the fat scraps.

Then start adding the meat to the canning jars. Add a big chunk first. Then smaller pieces.
I also have smaller pieces (on the left) that I am able to slice up into slices to fill in extra spaces at the top.
You can either add salt to the bottom of the jar, or not. I prefer not to, since it turns out to salty for my taste.

While it is not needed; when processing chicken I prefer to add boiling water at this point, It helps create a little broth, which I like. I never have enough broth it seems.

Use a spatula or the green magnet/bubble popper, to release trapped air bubbles & allow the water to get inside the jar completely. Add more water if needed.

Do not fill over this line on the jar. (Last thread on the screw top) This is called "headspace".
What is headspace?
The unfilled space in a canning jar between the top of the food or liquid and the underside of the lid. The corrrect amount of headspace is essential to allow for food expansion as the jars are heated and for the formation of a strong vacuum seal as the jars cool.

If you fill it too full, use a spoon to scoop out the excess.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a towel and white vinegar. The rims of the jars must be VERY clean.

Place a lid and then a ring on each jar. If your lid touches the meat, wash that one again, or use a spare.

Tighten the ring to "finger tight". It just barely tight.
How tight is finger(tip) tight?
Use your fingers to screw band (ring) down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
Do not use utensil or the full force of your hand to over-tighten bands (rings).
Tightening a lid beyond this point could cause the lid or band to buckle during processing, and is therefore undesirable.

Back to those fat scraps. I save them up and fill a another jar about half way full with scraps and then add water. This gives me a few jars of nice broth (did I mention I never have enough both) to open up when I want to make chicken and dumplings. This last weekend I made 3 quart jars of broth.

Next, fill your canner with the required amount of water. My Presto, actually has a fill line, which is helpful.

Add your jars to the canner.
Yes, 8 wide mouth jars will fit.

Pressure Canning the chicken. O.k. Here is the part some people find scary. It will be o.k. Just follow the instructions.
Now, put your pressure canner lid on & turn up the heat to high. Stay with me here...

I set my timer to 10 minutes...

WHEN there is a steady stream of steam coming out of the vent hole on top (see the steam?)...

Then you start the timer. You want that steady stream of steam venting for 10 minutes.

If it sounds like it is going crazy inside the canner, you may reduce the heat. But DO NOT let that steady stream stop. This isn't dangerous, just if the stream of steam stops, you will need to start the timer over. Steady stream of steam for 10 minutes. Got it?
Make sure you are monitoring these stages,

When the 10 minutes are up, then you add the weighted gauge. Bring the temperature back up, until the weight starts to jiggle, spew or spit.

When that happens, set your timer for 75 minutes for pints (90 minutes for quarts) & start the timer. Then you reduce your heat, until the weight only spits, spews or jiggles 3-5 times a minute. This takes practice. But just sit there and lower your heat until this happens.
If you are using just a pressure gauge, you want to continuously maintain 10 or 11 lbs. of pressure through out the 75 minutes.

After you have done this awhile and you get to know our canner and stove; you will know just where to drop the temperature on your stove to maintain the proper pressure.

What to do while you are waiting for 75 minutes. Read a book, do a little dance, wash dishes, unload the dishwasher (mine is always full it seems)

Clean your counter really well. Remember you have just had chicken juice all over it.

When the timer goes off: turn off the heat and gently move the canner from the heat.

Let rest until the pressure gauge drops down or when the little button drops down. That tells you that all the pressure has been release and it is safe to remove the lid. Only then can you remove the weight.
I pay attention, because as soon as the button drops
I want to remove the jars to keep them from cooking even more.

Remove the weight & then remove the lid carefully, turning it away from you when removing the lid to avoid the steam burning you. It will still be very hot. TIP: I use a dish towel to better protect me from the steam escaping.


Then gently remove your jars with your jar lifter...

And set them on a dish towel or place mat to cool.
Then SMILE! when you hear those lovely "pings" as your jars start to seal.
Most canners will tell you that this is their favorite part.

I pour out the water from my canner and allow it too cool down. Then wash it to have it ready for the next time.

For some reason, this is my second favorite part of canning. You place a clean dish towel(s) around the jars to protect them from drafts. Some may not need to do this step, but it was what I learned and I feel sometimes my house is a little drafty.
I feel like I am tucking babies in for the night.
Check them every now and then to insure all the jars have sealed, by seeing the the button has popped in. If a jar hasn't sealed, then let it cool down and put it in your fridge and use it sometime this week.
That is it for today. Unless you have several loads to can. Now you let them cool down and rest for the night.

But, this isn't the last step. 
You put a lot of work, time and money into pressure canning food. When you are done canning, you just put the jars on the shelf, right? WRONG! I often say "there are questions that newbies don't even know to ask". I don't believe I have seen a list of the simple, yet very important steps to take AFTER you finish a batch to optimize and protect your hard work.  This post tells you what to do next: 
Testing 1, 2, 3...


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  1. Thank you so much, i have learned that we have been using too high of heat because to us gently rocking back and forth. is not a sputter every 3 to 5 min we were letting it rock back and forth. our manual says to let it gently rock back and forth?we have the presto pressure canner and cooker. it says " adjust heat to maintain a slow steady rocking motion." does it damage the food if the rocking motion is too fast? oh well, I'm so happy to have learned something new today thank you so much perky!

    1. I have used stuff than I canned early on before I knew what things meant & they were fine. In the long run, I think using the proper pressure will extend the shelf life further (less heat involved). I wouldn't fret, just start the new information from now on. That is what I did.

  2. Tomorrow we're going to be processing chicken legs and thighs wanted to know if we can just follow your recipe on canning chicken as what were canning is dark meat?

    1. I always just read my canning booklet to double check. :D