5 Reasons You Should Can Your Own Meat
If you were born before about 1965 the sight of bottles of home-canned meat, fruits and vegetables on the shelf in your home (or your grandparents home) is something you still remember. From about 1960 - 1990 canning meat fell out of favor and you just saw bottles of fruits and vegetables. Then, about 1990 nobody canned anything anymore. It was cheaper to just go to the store and buy it in a tin can. Nobody argues that it tastes better in a tin can, or that it's better for you, but it's available in that form and it's cheaper. And that, my friends, was basically the death of home canning. But in the last four or five years there has been a resurgence in home food preservation in general and in canning fresh food (including meat!) in particular. And it's not surprising. With the economy the way it is, and the underlying feeling of instability we all feel, almost everyone is sensing the need to have a little something on the shelves in the pantry. And when you look at the shelf life of commercially canned foods (and all the additives, chemicals, etc.) you don't have to wonder why people are looking for a healthier alternative. Hence, the re-birth of home canning. Following are 5 reasons why you really should start canning again. The only other option that makes as much sense is freeze drying (which will set you back roughly $3,000 for the equipment.) If you're serious about healthy, fresh food that will last for years and be as good for you the day you take it out of the bottle as it was the day you put it in, home canning (bottling) is the only way to get that. Read on to find out why you should start again. Your Food Will Last For Years Home canned food that was put up properly will last 10 - 15 years without losing its nutritional potency. Meat, in particular, will last longer in a jar than it will with any other form of long-term preservation (with the exception of freeze drying.) As long as the seal isn't broken it will be safe from any type of bacterial infection and safe from nutrient loss or degradation. Your Meat Is Ready To Eat If you cook your meat before you bottle it, it comes out of the jar ready to eat. So for example, if you like pulled pork (a favorite at our house) you can make a huge batch of pork shoulder and shred it, mix in the spices and bbq sauce, and put it up in bottles. Ten years from now it will taste exactly like it did when you put it in the bottle. Think about it. You grab a bottle and head out for a picnic, or fishing or hunting, or to the job site and you have a ready to eat gourmet meal -- not in minutes, but the second you open the jar. You Cut Your Food Bill Exponentially I know one woman who watches the ads at a local discount grocer. When pork shoulder reaches her "target" price (about $1.39 in our area) she buys 75 - 150 pounds and spends one whole day bottling it. If you figure that one quart jar holds about 1 pound of pulled pork, she ends up with enough ready-to-eat meat for at least a couple of jars per week for a year. And the preparation was all done in one day. She does the same with hamburger cooking it with onions and spices and bottling when it goes on sale. She literally saves thousands of dollars a year feeding a family of six this way. You Know Where Your Food Came From In today's world more and more of us are wanting to know the source of the food we eat. When you bottle your own meat, you know where it came from. If you buy from a local butcher, you can ask if he sourced it locally. If so, you know you're eating meat from your area (and keeping your food dollars in the local economy.) If you buy meat in a tin can it's almost certainly not from your local area (or even your region.) In fact, much of the commercially canned meat available in the USA comes from Argentina, Brazil and Australia. As problematic as the fact that their practices for raising beef is different from ours, they aren't raising what we would consider "beef" cows. They raise longhorn cebu and other cattle which provide inferior meat. It's important to know where your meat comes from. You get that when you bottle your own. You Are In Charge Of Quality Control When you bottle your own meat you get to inspect the meat and decide what goes in and what doesn't. You get to decide how much of each spice. You get to decide whether it gets bottled cooked or raw. You are in complete control of everything. You get to decide if it's safe to eat because you check each bottle yourself. There's nobody who cares about you or your family like you do. Why would you turn over such an important responsibility to someone else? You Can Preserve Recipes You Can't Buy If you like pulled pork with a mustard-based bbq sauce, go for it. You're not going to find that in a commercially canned product anywhere. Not to mention that you're canning your grandmother's secret recipe for pulled pork that has been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. When it comes to this sort of thing, you don't want someone else's grandma's recipe. You want yours. And when you preserve your own food, that's exactly what you get. Conclusion: Why did people quit canning their own meat? If you listen to people talk, they will tell you that home-canned meat can harbor botulism toxins. That's enough to scare most people off. But is it true? The answer is yes. If you don't follow the recipe and if you don't inspect your jars after they've been cooked, bad things can happen. But if you're a reasonably intelligent person who is capable to read and follow instructions and the type of person who will take the time to inspect your handiwork before putting it on the shelf, there's absolutely no reason to ever have a problem with home-canned meat. It's delicious, it's nutritious, it's less expensive, it's quick and easy and it's something you will thank yourself for every time you open a jar. If you've been thinking about returning to canning (for whatever reason) get some advice and training from someone who is currently doing it. There's probably someone in your neighborhood who can help. Often it will be an older person who has been doing it for 50 - 75 years. I particularly like learning from people who have been around the block a few times. By the time you get to be 75 - 80 years old, you've made most of the mistakes yourself. Learning from those people helps you to avoid making those mistakes yourself. Let us know in the comments section below what food you can and how your family likes it. This is something you're going to see more and more. We need to help each other. If you're currently home-canning, help someone else who's just getting started. If you're just getting started look for someone who's already doing it. It takes a village to raise a "canner." Let's help each other.