Turn up the heat with pressure to properly can meats

Fall is a time when many families find themselves with beef, venison, turkey or chicken that they wish to preserve. Canned meats add to making simple and delicious meals.

“Foods that are naturally low in acid, such as meat and vegetables, must be pressure-canned to ensure safety,” says Barbara Ingham, food science specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The high temperatures created in a pressure canner (240°F-250°F) are necessary to destroy spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

“If the spores of C. botulinum are not destroyed, they can grow and produce a deadly toxin in any low-acid home canned food,” says Ingham.

There are two styles of pressure canners: those with a dial gauge and those with a weighted gauge. “Be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions for the type of canner that you have,” says Ingham. “And remember that a dial gauge canner must be tested annually to ensure that the gauge is reading accurately.”  Residents may have their dial gauge canners tested for free at the UW-Extension Office.  Weighted gauge canners do not need to be tested, but it is still a good idea to carefully inspect the canner, and replace worn parts as necessary.

“Don’t confuse a pressure canner with a pressure cooker or a pressure saucepan,” Ingham advises. These handy devices are used to rapidly cook meats, sauces, vegetables and other foods for a family meal.

“Because they heat food rapidly, and help to tenderize tough cuts of meat, pressure cookers are a fixture of many households but they are not recommended for canning,” Ingham stresses.

Some home canning recipes call for a mixture of ingredients such as venison or chicken stew, says Ingham. Remember with combination foods such as soups or stews that the processing time is set by the ingredient that takes the longest to process. When adding meat or vegetables such as corn to a mixture, be sure to adjust the processing time accordingly. And as with any canning instructions, be sure to follow an up-to-date, research tested recipe.

For safe home canning recipes using a pressure canner, contact your Extension office. You can find more information about safe canning in these publications available to download from the Extension Learning Store: Canning Vegetables Safely; Canning Meat, Wild Game, Poultry, and Fish Safety; and Care and Use of a Pressure Canner at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Food-Nutrition-C53.aspx

For more information about safely preserving meat, carrots, potatoes, beets or other fall favorites, or to have your pressure canner gauge contact your local UW-Extension office at 715-672-5214 or 608-685-6252 or email mary.wood@ces.uwex.edu .