Canning chicken, you can do it at home

Pictures coming soon…as soon as I can find the camera and upload them..:)

Tina, one of my beautiful and intelligent readers, found a fantastic deal on chicken and remembered that I had mentioned that I’d be posting about bottling or canning chicken, so she took the plunge, bought chicken in bulk and requested that I HURRY UP and post the directions.  Well, I didn’t exactly go like that, she was much more kind in her asking.

So Tina, because you asked nicely, here you go.

Have you heard the stories?  I have and because of them I was afraid of pressure-can anything. Now I used to let my fears get the best of me, but not anymore.  For example, (quick side story , you can skip this part if you like, I’ll put it in italics so you know when to come back)  when I was expecting my first child I heard every epidural horror story that there was and I was petrified of having an epidural for pain relief during childbirth.  So, long story short, I went into labor and muscled through until I….Could…..Not…..Take ……the…….Pain……any…….longer.  

When I had reached my pain threshold, I gave in, figuring that my pain at that moment was worse than any of the stories I’d heard.  So I called UNCLE and they paged the anesthesiologist to come and deliver me from this ummm HELL that I found myself in. As it happened, he was 45 minutes out because of someone else’s ill-timed emergency C-section, How rude!  (Only slightly kidding). So they gave me some IV Nubain, which at that moment was my new best friend and eventually I got the epidural, and when it was done, I asked puzzled, “Was that it?”   Amidst the euphoria of pain relief, I was so mad that I had listened to everyone’s horror stories and projected them on what my experience would be.

Now that is not to discount the horrible epidural experiences of some, I’m sure they happen, but that doesn’t mean that they happen with any regularity.  Same thing goes for pressure canning.  You might have heard stories of tomato goo all over the walls and ceilings of your mom’s childhood home or lids blowing off into the air and people yelling “Incoming!”.  It has happened, but today’s pressure canners have many more safety features built into them and we rarely see it anymore.

Now that your fears have been allayed, let’s get started–

Supplies needed:

  • Pressure Canner, not to be confused with a pressure cooker. (this link is the one I’ll get when I win a sweepstakes) these can get pricey but are an investment.  If you can’t afford it at the moment.  Find a friend that will let you borrow one.  If you are shopping for one, get larger rather than smaller, that way you can cut down your processing time because more jars will fit in each batch.  My Pressure Canner is a Presto 23 quart and holds 7 Qt jars or 16 pints.
  • Canning Jars; for meat, I recommend wide mouth jars, but regular ones will work. Always keep your eyes open for these at thrift stores (make sure to run your finger around the rim and only take jars that aren’t chipped or cracked)  You might ask around your facebook friends or neighbors to see if there are any jars sitting around in basements that you could put to use….offer a couple of quarts of the finished product in return for their stash.
  • Canning lids (single use, most inexpensive at Walmart or grocery store) or reusable Canning Lids and jar rings (reusable, will come with new jars)
  • Lid Lifter, this is a handy stick-like tool with a magnet on the end used to lift the lids out of the simmering water, (comes in a kit)  it’s not necessary, but sure saves finger burns
  • clean towels
  • Canning funnel, again, not vital but it helps keep the rims clean, and you want them clean so the lids will seal properly.
  • Jar lifter for taking jars out of canner.
  • small sauce pan to simmer the lids in. (and this nifty gadget if you are into gadgets)
  • Chicken

So how do you know how many jars you need?  That all depends on how much chicken you plan on canning.  I plan on 2 lbs of chicken fitting into a quart jar and one pound in a pint jar.  I use a quart of chicken for a meal for my family of 8 for things like chicken noodle soup or chicken enchiladas.

Steps: (It looks like a lot but it’s really not)

  1. Clear your counter and put the jars through a dishwasher cycle, or you could wash them by hand in hot soapy water and rinse well.  I prefer to let my machines do the work thank you.
  2. Trim your chicken and put it into a large bowl. Kitchen Shears  work great for this slippery task. I trim mine pretty severely.  I am not a fan of chicken goobers if you get my drift.  ICK!  I cut my chicken into pieces about 1.5 – 2 inches square. Just bite-sized, others put the whole chicken breast in the jar. Chunks are easier to cram in the jar.
  3. My canner will fit 7 qt jars.  So after they are clean I get out 7 Jars and set them on the counter.
  4. Place 7 lids into the pan of water and set to simmer. A back burner works well for this so it’s out of the way.
  5. Using the canning funnel, fill your jars with the chicken pieces, go ahead and pack it in there but leave 1 inch of space at the top
  6. After all 7 jars are filled, with a clean damp cloth, wipe the rims of all the jars. Make sure to use a clean part of the cloth on each jar.  This isn’t a clean-freak thing (heaven knows I’m not that) , this step will determine if your jars seal or not. We don’t want anything (like chicken goobers) between the glass jar rim and the rubber gasket on the lid.
  7. Now, remove a jar lid with your handy dandy magnetic lid lifter and place on the jar, repeat until all jars have lids.
  8. Screw a ring onto each jar and just finger-tip tighten, don’t torque it down. The air needs to be able to vent out to make a good vacuum seal.
  9. Read the manual that comes with your canner and follow the recommendation on how much water to add to the canner.  Mine is 4 qts, which doesn’t look like much but once the jars get in there the level goes right up.
  10. Get your canner on your *largest burner and put the water in.  Then one by one, place the jars carefully in the canner.
  11. Put the lid on the canner an turn the burner on High. Stick around because you’ll be watching for the steam to come out of the little steam vent on the lid.  When it is a continuous stream of steam, then you can put the rocker on and watch the pressure build up.
  12. When the pressure gets to your desired setting which is determined by your altitude…not your attitude, your ALtitude.  I am right about 4300 feet above sea level so my pressure is 15 lbs.  Check your manual to find out yours.  When your gauge reads the correct pressure NOW you can start timing your processing time.
  13. For meats the processing time is 90 minutes for quarts and 75 minutes for pints.  You must maintain the 15 lbs (or whatever yours is) for that whole processing time.  When the timer rings, just turn off the burner.
  14. DO NOT: Remove the rocker, mess with the valves, take the canner off the burner or do anything other than turn off the heat.  You need to allow the pressure to reduce naturally.  When the gauge shows 0 pressure THEN you can remove the rocker, and only when there is no remaining pressure will you even be able to take off the lid.
  15. It takes over an hour sometimes for the pressure to reduce so that’s a good time to enjoy a bowl of ice cream or put your feet up and read a book.
  16. Remove the lid away with hot mitts and away from your face, there will still be some steam, and unless you need some complexion help…nevermind, you don’t want steam burns so follow the direction above.
  17. The meat juices will still be boiling in the bottles so with extreme care, use a jar lifter to place jars on a toweled counter-top to cool.  Leave some air space between the jars so they can cool evenly.  They’ll continue to bubble for a time and then you’ll hear that heavenly ‘plinking sound’ announcing joyfully that they have sealed successfully.
  18. Resist the urge to help the plinking along by tap tap tapping the lid with your finger, this lapse in judgement is akin to helping a baby bird hatch out of it’s egg.  Seems like a good thing to do but IT ISN’T!
  19. Once all of the jars have plinked and are cool, you might notice a residue on the jars, you can now remove the rings (they aren’t needed for storage) and carefully wash the residue off with soap and water.
  20. Date your jars, and admire them as you line them up on in your pantry.  If you live in earthquake country be sure to store them safely to avoid breakage.  A post on that is coming soon so if you aren’t subscribed to new posts, take care of that so you don’t miss it.

PLEASE NOTE*  It is understood that you shouldn’t use a pressure canner on a smooth top stove.  I think it’s the weight or possibly the concentrated heat, I’m not exactly sure.  However, since that is all I had for several years of my canning life, I said a prayer and went ahead. My stove maintained it’s integrity and was fine.  I now have a gas stove and so that is what I use.  So take that for what it’s worth and pray over your stove if you feel so inclined.  I take no responsibility for your prayers, or your stove top.


  1. Pam says:

    A couple of things that have worked for me – I put my clean jars in my oven on Warm to heat them up, especially if I am canning anything hot – which this chicken isn’t, but it does sterilize them.
    I have always canned on a smooth-top range and never had any problems, but as opposed to a gas range the heat continues when you turn it off so I always remove the canner from the burner when the time is up.
    I am told, but haven’t tried, that canning on a propane camp stove is faster and it keeps the heat out of your kitchen during the hot canning season since you have to use it outside or in the garage.

  2. Cindy says:

    Great instructions, and as always, I love your sense of humor! Will give it a try once I actually taste some of that pressurized bird. Yeah, I’m a chicken to try canning the chicken until I’ve tasted the chicken! 🙂

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