Today we canned 7 quarts of chicken meat, with broth. Here's how we do this:
We started with five frozen chickens, purchased from town. Five chickens gives us seven full quarts of chicken. We'd previously canned up four chickens into seven quart jars, and those quarts had less chicken and more broth. Seven quarts is the magic number, by the way, because that's how many quart jars my pressure canner can hold at one time.
There are different ways to can chicken, including putting the meat into the jars raw. We've chosen to roast our chickens first. We end up with lovely roast chickens, and lots of grease and drippings in the pans.
We don't want to waste anything here, so we collect all of the grease and drippings, and save them for making gravy. I put 1/4 cup grease, 1 cup of drippings, and 1 cup of water into a freezer container. I generally get enough to put the makings for three or four batches of gravy in the freezer. Then, whenever I want to make chicken gravy in the future, I'm all set!
The meat is pulled off the bones, and set aside in a big bowl.
As each carcass is picked clean, we dump the bones and skin into a pot of water boiling on the stove. Eventually this will be the broth that we put in with the chicken.
In the midst of the canning we had to fix supper. Since I had more grease and drippings than I could fit into my freezer, we decided to use gravy in tonights supper, so Rachel whipped up a quick batch of biscuits for biscuits and gravy. It was nice to be eating chicken and gravy on the same day that we canned chicken, as the smell of the chicken cooking makes everyone want to eat it now!
We didn't have quite enough chicken broth, so we filled the jars the rest of the way up with hot water.
I won't go into the details of all the steps involved in making sure that the food will be sealed safely into the jars, but rest assured that we are carefully following all the directions. Once the chicken is in the jars, and the hot broth is poured over the meat, we pop the jars into the canner for processing.
We have to set the pressure on our canner slightly higher than the general directions, because of our elevation.
And there's the result of all this work - cooked chicken, ready for seven future family meals.
I was going to explain how we figure the benefits of the canning in this post, but it has gotten kind of long, so I'll save that for next time.