Canned beef. I joke that it is the only reason Rob has put up with me this long... I will never forget the first time I made it.
Him: "That seems like an awful lot of work. Once it's done, what do you use it for?"
Me: "Any dish that calls for beef - beef & noodles, barbecue, vegetable soup... since it's already cooked and ready to eat all I have to do is combine the ingredients and heat."
Him: "You mean I can eat it right out of the jar?!?"
...and we lived happily ever after.
Here’s what the process looks like:
First, I share this process with a nod to both my mom and my grandma. From the time that I was old enough to remember, canning was something that was done in our house. At first, my job was retrieving the empty jars, boxes of new lids, and reusable rings from the basement. Then, (with much complaining on my part) it was the washing and snapping of what seemed like millions of green beans. After that, wiping the residue from the jars once the process was completed, and carefully carrying them back to the basement where they would stay until we consumed them during the upcoming year. The beef, raised on my grandma’s 40 acres, was the most delicious thing I ever tasted, though the fact that it previously had had a name did spark a bit of angst in my young heart.
These days, we get our beef from a farmer down the road. When I give the slaughterhouse / processor cutting instructions, I tell them how many pounds of CANNING MEAT that I want. Canning meat normally comes from the cuts that are used to make ground beef, so some careful planning is required to make sure we get the ratios correct and don’t end up short on ground beef. A quart jar holds about 2 pounds. Unlike the rest of the side that comes in neat white packages, this meat arrives in unfrozen chunks, bagged as shown below. Our processor does a great job trimming the fat off, so all I have to do is place the chunks in the jars, allowing about an inch space from the top.
I pack the meat, using my hands, into sterilized quart jars, along with a teaspoon of salt. The recipe I use calls for adding gravy, but I do not. I smoosh the meat down tightly, forcing out all the air space, replacing it with juice from the meat itself. As it is processed, it creates the most wonderful, rich, beef broth.
The full jars are covered with sterilized lids, tightened down with the appropriate rings, and placed in the pressure cooker. To me, the hardest part about canning beef is keeping the heat and pressure in the required range for the correct amount of time. Once I got used to how my stove responded, it became much easier. Processing is done at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes, to ensure the final product is shelf stable and safe for storage at room temperature.
*Disclaimer* I think my stove’s manufacturer does not recommend this type of use for the halogen glass cooktop that I have. The stove is several years old, so I took the calculated risk and used it anyway. I’ve gotten away with it for several years. If you want to try this, and you have this kind of cook top, proceed with caution.
Below is the instructions I follow from my own Ball Blue Book. It’s several years old. The newest version that I can currently find for sale is here. The pressure cooker I have is about 30 years old, but it’s just like this one. If you’re in the market for one of these, regardless of what brand you buy, I highly recommend getting this size that holds 7 quart jars. Anything larger will be impossibly heavy, and will take a lot longer to heat up as needed.
One thing the canning book does not talk about, however, is the wreckage that happens to your hands when you’re going from handling raw meat to sterile jars over and over for days. The last batch of beef I canned was about 100 pounds worth. At 7 jars in each batch (about 7 batches) that’s a whole lot of hand washing.
I had HoofPrints’ Horse Woman Balm formulated especially with equestrian hand care needs in mind, but it also works perfectly for healing in the chapping that happens with frequent hand washing needed for things like canning beef. I found that if I slathered this stuff on at night before going to bed, wore a pair of thin cotton gloves while sleeping, my hands were almost as good as new by morning! It’s all natural, made in Indiana, USA by a small, woman-owned company. And it smells GREAT. To order click here.
*Note – most of the links in my posts are for HoofPrints products. Some, however, are not. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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More posts about food and recipes are here
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For more fun on the farm, go here
Adventures in remodeling are here
Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here
Laughable housekeeping advice is here