Planning for Canning

One of the wonderful surprises I have had over the last few years pressure canning meat, fish and poultry, has been the convenience of using these foods when preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner.  At first I was nervous using a pressure canner, as we have all heard the stories about how they blew apart from too much pressure during grandma’s days.  I was also frightened that I would kill my family with the deadly botulism malady.

I am glad to report that I just don’t worry about those problems anymore.  I am very careful to follow each recipe from a reputable source exactly as written, I have become more familiar with my pressure canner, and follow every food precaution known with regard to cleanliness, temperature and cross contamination.

Because of this, I have been canning a lot of salmon, chicken and beef.  I bought a kindle book about canning beef called (of course) “I Can Can Beef”, written by Jennifer Shambrook, Ph.D. Her instructions are simple and direct and follow the Ball Canning Book almost exactly.  But the book goes much further into the subject, in that she lists quite a few recipes just for the canned meat.  I was so impressed with this book that I bought her other books, “I Can Can Chicken”, “I Can Can Beans” and “I Can Can Ground Beef”.

Pressure canned beefWhen I found Zaycon, the company from which I buy all my bacon, chicken and ground beef, I found that canning the meat was a very easy and convenient way to prepare what I had purchased.  Once the jars had been processed and the seals confirmed, I had shelf stable protein that did not need refrigeration or freezing!  Living off grid, this is a very important feature, as refrigerator and/or freezer space is oftentimes limited. If you haven’t heard about Zaycon, click on the Zaycon button on my sidebar!  If you order from them, I will receive a small “finder’s fee”, which will not increase your cost in any way.  It’s their way of saying “thank you” to me for spreading the word about their wonderful company.

You can see in the picture below some of the items I canned this past year on my working pantry shelf, which used to be the bottom bunk bed in our travel trailer.  I store the bulk of my canned goods in our cargo container, and go “shopping” there when I need to replenish the working pantry in my trailer.  As we build our new home and live part-time in the trailer, this is where I do most of our cooking.My Canning Pantry

Yes, I know.  As much as I talk about a self-sufficient lifestyle, I do have some store bought items on the shelf, also.  Guilty  😉

However, if anyone can find me a copy-cat recipe for Rice-A-Roni pilaf that actually tastes like the original… Please Share!  We love this as a side dish, but even better love adding the prepared mix to our chicken soup!  I also like making my own pasta, but unfortunately I don’t have enough space in my tiny RV kitchen to make batches of pasta, nor do I have the time while we are busy building our new home.

What I have found is that one pound of browned ground beef fills one pint jar, hence one 10 pound portion of ground beef will fill ten pint jars of processed ground beef, so one order of Zaycon ground beef (each order is 40 pounds) will fill 40 pint jars.  Since we use, on average, two pint jars of ground beef a week, one order will last us about 20 weeks. So, it would follow that if I want to can enough ground beef for a whole year, I would need about 2-1/2 to 3 full orders of ground beef from Zaycon.  Hmmm….  that probably won’t work for me right now.  First – I don’t have enough room in my small RV refrigerator to keep the second and third order of ground beef cold while I process the first batch. Second – My All American pressure canner holds only 19 pint jars at a time, so it would take two full batches in my canner to process almost the ground beef.  Since it takes at least 5 or 6 hours to heat, process and cool down my canner for each batch, it would take two days to get three batches of canning done. Whew! That would be a lot of work! However, I could process 38 pounds in one day – two full batches or one order of Zaycon ground beef – and that would almost get us through about half a year.

The same goes for the chicken.  Zaycon sells their chicken breast in 40 pound lots.  I usually can the chicken breast in chunks either by itself in pint jars, or with onions, celery, carrots and broth for a home-made chicken soup, in quart jars.  The chicken breast can be used in lots of Canned Chickendifferent recipes including stir fry, chicken enchiladas, Pad Thai, etc.  To the chicken soup I add noodles or the aforementioned Rice-A-Roni.  Seriously, if you know of a good copy-cat Rice-A-Roni pilaff recipe – Please let me know and I will be ever so grateful!  Ten pounds of chicken breast, cut into 1 x 1 inch chunks – raw pack – will make about 12 pint jars. When making soup, I don’t pack as much chicken into the quart jars so that there will be enough broth to cook the pasta or rice or other fresh vegetables when I am serving it, so ten pounds of chicken will usually make about 16 quart jars of soup for me.  We go through an average of 1 pint of chunk chicken and 1 quart of the chicken soup per week, so one 40 pound order of chicken breast works out to about 30 pints of chunk chicken and 20 quarts of soup per order.

As spring is quickly approaching I am starting to plan my vegetable garden, with an eye toward canning and/or freezing the produce to last at least one year.  That is my goal right now – one year.  I have read that one should actually have enough for two years, just in case of crop failure, or other disaster, but right now that would be just too overwhelming for me.  This has been quite a challenge for me, and I am still learning what works for me and what doesn’t. The problem is that I have to improve my gardening skills before I can be sure I will have enough food for a year.  😉

Last year I planted Kentucky Wonder beans and they did an amazing job.  Not only did we eat fresh green beans twice a week for a few months – July, August and September – I was also able to preserve 24 pint jars of green beans.  But it wasn’t enough.  I am already down to my last several jars of green beans and we still have at least three months before I can expect to get more from my garden.  So, I will have to plant more beans this year.

Bald faced hornets in my beans

I have trellised the bean plants to make it easier to reach the beans. So much easier (and safer) than a ladder.  Though these beans produced very well, I want more!

How many more?  Well, I figure if I want to have 3 dozen jars of beans, which would give us one jar per week during the non-producing months, I would have to plant half again as many beans as I did last year.  But if I wanted to have 4 dozen jars, I would need twice as many plants.  Therefore, I am going to plant twice as many plants because we really love

green beans pressure canned

I like to raw pack my green beans when I pressure can – it is so much easier and the final product isn’t much different that hot pack!

green beans.  We eat them plain as a side dish, cold in salads, thrown into stews and buried in casseroles.  In our family, the more the better!  Last year I planted cucumbers among the green beans, as well as the Chinese Red Noodle Beans.  While I love pickles, and the noodle beans were a fun experiment, I am going to use the entire side of the raised bed for green beans this year.

My black beans also did fairly well.  Out of the 9 plants that I had, I got about a quart of dried black beans.  The black beans shared the raised bed with the green beans, cucumbers and noodle beans, but were planted on the opposite side, which seemed to work well.  The black beans were a bush bean and didn’t interfere with the vining green beans.  The book “I Can Can Beef”, explains how you can fill up you canner with simple jars of either plain or chili beans.  Say, for example, you are canning 10 pints of ground beef.  My pressure canner holds 17 pints, so I have room for another 7 pints.  Why not fill those 7 pints with beans, which only takes minutes to do.  You will spend the same amount of energy processing the canner but have seven jars of delicious beans to add to your pantry!  I processed my black beans and got 9 pints of beans.  We need more than that, so I will also double the amount of black bean plants this year. Maybe triple!

These are the black turtle beans I grew last year. These are very tasty, can well, and as a bush bean doesn’t take too much real estate in the garden, but is well worth the effort.

My other garden vegetables I plan to grow and can include potatoes, carrots, beets and chili peppers.  You can see on the picture of my working pantry that I have four small jars of chopped peppers.  These worked out great when making chicken enchiladas, chili beans, meatloaf, etc., but sadly, those didn’t last long at all!

canned chili peppers

My fire roasted diced and canned chili peppers

The small size of the jars was perfect for adding to recipes, however, so I will continue canning peppers in that size, it’s just that I didn’t have enough. We had six Anaheim Chile plants last year.  Along with eating them fresh (mmmmmm… BBQ pepper poppers!) I want to have at least two dozen of these small jars for next year, so I will need to plant at least 12 Anaheim Chili plants this next year.  We also had two Ancho Poblano peppers that didn’t produce very well.  I wanted the Ancho Poblano because they would be great for Chili Relleno, but alas the plants just didn’t do as well as I had hoped.  So this year I will grow only Anaheim Chiles as my hot pepper.

My carrots?  They didn’t do well.  I ended up with little three inch long bunches of carrot flavored fuzzy roots.  I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I need to improve my carrot growing skills because I want to be able to can carrots also.  Not sure what happened to my potatoes this year, but they also suffered.  Alas, there is always another year!  🙂

These are the cherry tomatoes that I grew last summer. They were oh so good!

And the tomatoes?  I need more tomatoes.  The canning type to make sauces, pastes and chopped tomatoes.  Last year I grew both cherry tomatoes and paste tomatoes.  We ate the cherry tomatoes fresh and I canned the paste tomatoes.  I had two paste tomato plants and that wasn’t near enough to supply my pantry shelf.  This year I am going to grow two cherry tomatoes for fresh eating and probably a dozen paste tomato plants.  I will have to keep some space in my freezer for the tomatoes, because I like to throw them in a bag I have in the freezer and then process the tomatoes into sauce in one large batch, rather than several smaller batches. You can see that process HERE.  I haven’t tried making my own ketchup yet, but if I have enough tomatoes this year, making ketchup will be one of my new experiments.

It will be interesting to see how these changes in my garden will effect my canning this year.  Until we are able to move into our new home, canning will have to continue being done on my outdoor propane burner.  This presents a challenge, sometimes, because I have to plan my canning days around windy days, which can effect the flame of the outdoor burner, and therefore the canning process.

So, here’s to a new season of gardening, harvesting, canning and learning.  I hope my pantry will be still overflowing at this time next year.

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23 thoughts on “Planning for Canning

  1. You are amazing!! You’re so organized, I just love it. I have 3 freezers that are still quite stuffed with sauces, stews, soups, etc that I made with last year’s produce – we are using it up slowly, in order to make room for this season’s bounty. I just ordered my cowpots and seed starting soil yesterday, it’s time to get my lower level seed starting operation ready to go!

    • I have a few seeds I need to order also, so I guess I had better get on the stick! Right now my one and only freezer is only 5 cubic feet, so it holds enough for the two of us right now, but once I am able to grow broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts (I just can’t seem to get them in the ground in time!), I hope I will need two freezers! Those veggies aren’t good to can, unless they are pickled. Thank you for commenting today, Debbie. Your blog is one of my favorites!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I really appreciate reading what and how others are doing it, and this post was really nice and pretty detailed.

  3. You can never have enough tomatoes! We finally got a great crop in our humid/rainy area by placing a makeshift plastic (like a greenhouse) over our plants and we were thrilled with the harvest. I usually make a few batches of salsa and then can the rest as whole tomatoes to be used for anything — from Mexican to Italian dishes… Like you, I finally got over my fear of pressure canning and find I appreciate the products that come out of the pressure canner more as they are very convenient in meal planning… I mean BEANS… how can you go wrong? I like the idea of using up the space and have tried the method you shared from that author on a post a few years back. I still have that bean recipe in my binder. Glad to see all is going well at the homestead. I love reading about your progress!

    • Yes, I am thinking, like you, of planting quite a few tomatos. Maybe I can stick one in here and another there – wherever I think they might grow! It’s true, one of the most convenient things I have canned are the beans. So easy to do (1/2 cup dry beans, jar filled to 1 inch headspace), doesn’t take any extra energy, and they come out just like the canned beans bought at the store! I think you are right about canning a lot of your tomatoes whole, because I have quite a few recipes that use whole or even chopped tomatoes. Thank you!

  4. All I can say is wow! You amaze me with how much you accomplish. It was really interesting for me to learn as well that you can safely can meat.

    • Hello, Penny! It’s nice to hear from you. Canning meat has become so much easier, now that I’m not so scared to do it. What is really nice are the days Ray uses the canned ground beef with a package of Hamburger Helper for dinner. So fast and easy for him and, of course, Hamburger Helper ALWAYS tastes better when someone else makes it! 😉

  5. Wow! I always have so many grand plans for canning while planning my garden – this needs to be the year I get over my pressure canner fears!

    • Good morning, Liz, and thanks for stopping by! It took me a while to get over my fears, but when I read the statistics about how many people actually get sick from home canning (very few), I decided to set my fears aside and just do it! Home canning has become one of the safest ways to preserve food, and since my husband and I want to be as food self-sufficient as possible (and within reason), I knew I had to learn as much as possible and trust myself. It has worked out well and I can tell you that preserving food by canning has been a very rewarding experience!

  6. Thanks for sharing your post on Our Simple Homestead Hop, I love reading about your canning and gardening. I love having a full pantry myself! As one of the co-hosts I will be featuring your post tomorrow!
    -Nancy

  7. My Rice-A-Roni sort of recipe:
    Cook together and drain fat from 1# ground beef and I chopped onion.
    Brown in large skillet: 1c. rice and 8oz. broken pieces of spaghetti in 4 T. Butter.
    Add beef mixture and 4C. broth to skillet , and any seasonings you want.
    Simmer covered about 20 min.
    ( Adapt to precooked +/or canned meats? Should be fine). Oh, this makes TONS. TRY 1/2 recipe to check it out. Hope this helps. Deedy from http://www.homeandharvest-deedy.blogspot.com

    • Thank you so much for the recipe, Deidre! I will try it soon. Hmmmm… I wonder if taco seasoning would be good in this?

      • Absolutely ‘Go taco’ seasoning. A perfect almost multipurpose seasoning.., or a small amount of Creole seasoning? (Tony Chachere’s…little goes a long way. Lasts forever) Watch it. Hot. Or I like generic steak seasoning ( salt, pepper, garlic and more in it). Enjoy, D

  8. I know you mentioned something about coming up with a Rice-A-Roni copycat recipe. I might suggest you check out some recipes for rice pilaf and see what you can do. Tossing in some vermacelli would give you those browned bits of pasta you are looking for.

    • Oh. My. Goodness.
      I just clicked over to your website and I am now officially a follower! Holy Cow, your blog is exactly what I have been searching for. Thank you so much for your suggestion, and thank you in advance for all the yummy recipes on your site!

  9. Just catching up on all your recent posts. ☺️ I’m so jealous that you get to garden while building your house. Being that I am going to be the main builder of our house, we decided that there will not be a garden this year. It’s too much for me to keep up with while spending my days building. Our original plan was to slowly build our house as time and resources allowed. But now that we have my father-in-law living with us and loaning us the money to build faster, we feel the pressure to get ‘er done! So no garden. But, once again, our gardening goals are the same as yours. Produce and preserve enough for one year. And I love using my pressure canner to can meat and bone broth. Where did you get yours? It sounds huge! 17 pints!?! Mine only holds 9 or 10 (can’t remember).

    • Hello, Maridy. So nice to hear from you again! Yes, building will probably take up most of my time, but since dear hubby set up an automatic watering system with a timer for me, I won’t have to spend too much time with it. My pressure canner is an All-American. Yes, it is huge, but not even close to the biggest ones they make! I bought the All American because I was tired of having to replace the rubber gasket of my old pressure canner. I don’t know why, but I had to replace it every year! Then I heard that the All American didn’t even have a gasket, and I was sold. They are pricy but worth it. We are both hoping for good spring weather so we can start building, so let’s keep our fingers crossed, say a little prayer, and hope for the best!

  10. Hi I know this is a older post so I hope you see this. I did carrots this year in a raised bed. I had a 50/50 mix of a soil compost mix and vermiculite. Made a.world of difference! I also used it in my potatoes still waiting for those to be done. I’ll continue to follow you I would love if my family was more open to veggies and living off the land but alas they are not.

    • Hello, Deb – nice to meet you! I added a bit of vermiculite to my garden as an experiment this spring in one of my beds and it really did help to break up the soil a bit. I was cautious and didn’t add much, but with the improvement that I could see and your encouragement, I think I will add the rest of the bag. It couldn’t hurt! I have taken a hiatus from the blog for the past two months for several reasons, but will be back to posting regularly soon. Welcome aboard!

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