If you own chickens, then you know that old age is a touchy subject. Older hens can be tough birds, fatty, and not worth roasting. And it might leave you questioning, should I be pressure canning my old chickens? Or maybe you’ve never heard of pressure canning at all. In that case, you are in for a life-changing experience. So let’s look at the benefits of pressure cooking and how to process your hens for it.
Why Should I Be Pressure Canning My Old Chickens?
There are so many benefits to pressure canning that you might have never realized. First, this canning method is a fantastic way to preserve butchered chickens. You can keep the cans perfectly preserved for 3-5 years, and the chicken will stay fresh and tender. Plus, canning is a safer way to protect food compared to a freezer. Things in the freezer can get freezer burn, or if the electricity goes out, the food thaws.
Another benefit is that you can use the canned meat in just about anything. Canned chicken is great for casseroles, chicken salad, or on its own. But other than that, pressure canning can turn your old birds into some of the tenderest chicken around. You could swear that it was a young chicken you were eating. And it’s super easy to do! You would be surprised at how fast the process is compared to traditional canning methods.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
To get started in the pressure canning world, you will need a few things. If this is your first time, you need a highly reliable and easy-to-use pressure cooker. And it’s also essential to check your user instructions that it’s approved for canning as well.
Currently, the National Center For Home Food Preservation disapproves of using the ever-popular InstaPot or Ninja Foodi for pressure canning. And a crock pot takes a long time to cook and can’t give you that fast seal needed for sanitary canning. So instead, we recommend using a model like the T-Fal Pressure Cooker if you are new to canning. It’s an easy-to-use dial-gauge pressure canner for any beginner.
You will also need a few mason jars with new lids to do your canning in. In this recipe, we will give instructions on how to can using pint and quart jars. To calculate the number of canning jars needed, you will need a rough estimate of how many pounds you can. Typically, one pound of chicken fits into a pint jar with just enough wiggle room for water or hot broth.
And don’t forget, you will need a teaspoon of salt to add to each jar for seasoning and preserving.
Steps To Pressure Canning Your Chickens
Now that you have everything you need to get started let’s talk about how to do it. While canning is an easy process, remember that you need to take extra care of your steps. One wrong move could introduce bacteria into your chicken and ruin everything. So let’s get started.
Step #1: Sterilize And Check Everything
The first thing you need to do is clean everything with hot and soapy water. You will need to wash all of the mason jars and lids with hot soapy water, even if they are brand new. Then, you will want to boil the mason jars for 10 minutes to kill everything. You shouldn’t boil the lid covers because this will prevent the jars from sealing. Instead, all you need to do is wash the lids with soap and water.
After you sterilize everything, it’s time to inspect everything. Make sure none of your jars have scratches or cracks in them. It might even be worth it to double-check that all of the lids screw on tightly. But the inspections don’t stop there.
You also need to check your pressure cooker for any imperfections. Make sure that the lid locks and that all functions are working correctly. If your pressure cooker doesn’t create a proper seal, it can’t build up pressure to can. So make sure that everything seals, turns, and works according to your manual.
Step #2: Prep The Chicken
Now that everything is ready, it’s time to process your old hens. To do this, all you need to do is skin the chicken and into chicken chunks. There is no need to make perfect little cubes or anything because it will flake when you can the chicken. So chop them up in any way you can. Depending on what you use the chicken for, you can leave the meat on or off the bone. But we will get more into which is the best ways later. As long as you remove the excess fat, you are good to go.
Step #3: Pressure Cook The Bones
We don’t believe in wasting any part of our precious hens. So to make the best of our chickens, we even use the carcass. If you’ve never made your own chicken bone broth, it is heaven. So after you cut the useable chicken meat off, pressure cook the leftovers with a few vegetables for a rich flavor. Onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery all make great additions to a bone broth. Just remember to stick to low-acid foods to better can the broth.
Once it’s cooked, strain and let it cool to room temperature. While it’s cooling, you will see the fat rising to the top. Then you can skim it off and can the broth for chicken soup or use it in our next step.
Step #4: Fill The Jars
The next step to canning chicken is to fill your canning jars. We prefer to fill our jars with the raw pack method. Some directions will tell you to pressure cook the whole chicken first. But we find that it makes the chicken dry and tough to do this. When you pressure can your chickens, it also cooks, so there is no need for cooking it first. So if you are short on time, canning raw chicken is a good thing.
So fill your jars with meat until there is about an inch headspace at the top. Then use the hot pack method to add boiling water to the jar until half an inch space remains. Or, if you made the bone broth in step #3, then substitute the water for broth. Finally, add a little bit of salt into each jar, and you’re finished.
Step #5: Clean Up The Jars
Filling our jars can get pretty messy. So it’s a good idea to take a clean rag and wipe down the jars and openings. If the rim of the jar isn’t clean, the seal can be compromised. So get them cleaned and dried well.
Step #6: Pressure Canning Process Time
Now it’s time to get your cans in the pressure cooker and add water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then close the lid and raise the pressure of the cooker. To pressure cook most chicken, you will need at least 10 pounds pressure.
Once the cooker builds up to this amount of pressure, you can start your timer. You will want to cook it for 75 minutes for pint jars or 90 minutes for quart jars for chickens without the bone. And if you left the bone on, you will cook them for 65 minutes for pint-sized jars and 75 minutes for quarts.
If you pressure can the leftover stock, you will need to do this in a separate batch. You will still require 10 pounds of pressure, but the cook times are significantly shorter. All you need is 20 minutes for pint-sized jars and 25 for quarts.
Once your pressure cooker has cooled and the pressure naturally releases, you can open it. Now your canned chicken is ready for storage. Should I be pressure canning my old chickens? If it’s that simple, I don’t see why not!
Bone-In Or Boneless?
The biggest decision you have to make is whether to leave the bone-in or remove them before canning. Some people like to leave the bones in to give the chicken a richer flavor by making a bone broth in the jar. But you almost always have to debone it before use. So it really doesn’t make sense to leave it in if you want easy and quick meals.
However, that is why we make our own bone broth with the carcass. If you use this bone broth when canning chicken, it marinates in that delicious flavor until it’s ready for use. Plus, you’ll have some leftovers for use in soups and gravy. And you won’t have a bland boneless chicken breast in a can.
So Are You Ready For Pressure Canning?
Should I be pressure canning my old chickens? Now that you know how simple and easy it is, you will want a pressure canning party. Once you taste how tender and delicious a pressure-cooked chicken tastes, you will wonder why more people don’t do it. Forget grocery store canned meat. You have something better. And the next time you have an older hen, you won’t feel like it’s a chicken gone to waste.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!