A Meal In A Jar
Foraging, hunting, gardening, and raising your own chickens are great ways to provide healthy food for your table. Providing for your family and learning to be more self sufficient should be ways of life that we all strive for, now and for the future. Take it a step further by learning to preserve the food you raise or find in the wild for lean times. Having home canned vegetables, fruits, and meats lined up on shelves and ready to pop open for meals is a great way to save money, live healthy, and prepare for unexpected hardships. If those hardships include the failure of our power grid, you’ll want to have some Mason Jar Meals on hand so you can feed your family a balanced meal without leftovers. No electricity means no refrigeration, so you probably won’t be able to save leftovers for your next meal. (Worried about how you will can more food post SHTF? Read all about Canning Food Without Electricity.or Dehydrating Food Without Electricity)
Canning Your Mason Jar Meals
To balance your Mason Jar Meals, you’ll want to choose a source of protein and several vegetables, and maybe some potatoes for carbohydrates. Beef stew, chicken soup, and chili are easy meals to open, heat and eat. You can even eat them cold from the jar in a pinch.
Mason Jar Meals are low acid foods, even if they contain a fair amount of tomatoes. So it is very important that you can them in a pressure canner, according to the latest recommendations by The National Center for Home Food Preservation. Improper canning procedures can cause fatal botulism poisoning, so always be safe and follow their processing instructions.
When canning several kinds of food in one jar (such as chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes for stew) use the longest processing time listed for the ingredients. In this case the beef needs to be processed for 90 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure at altitudes of 1000 feet or more, longer than any of the other ingredients. The foods you are canning should not be too thick to pour easily from the jar. Thick foods do not can up properly and should be thinned with water or broth. Be sure to inspect your canning equipment before you start and review your recipe and pressure canning instructions. Using canning jars. Don’t cheap out and reuse mayonnaise or other jars. They may break in processing, wasting your food and hard work. Do you have reusable Tattler canning lids on hand? Stock up on everything you need to preserve food now, in case there are shortages later.
TEOTWAWKI Venison Stew
- 3 1/2 pounds raw venison roast or stew meat, cut into 1” chunks
- 1/4 cup unbleached flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- oil or lard for frying
- 2 cups water
- 7 carrots, sliced thick
- 7 potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 or 2 onions, chopped
- 7 bay leaves, 1 for each jar
- Water or broth to fill jars
- 7 quart canning jars
Mix flour with salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge meat chunks in flour mixture and brown in frying pan with oil. Add any flour left in bowl to frying pan and brown. Add 2 cups water and stir to create gravy from the flour. Distribute chopped vegetables and stew meat evenly in the canning jars. Pour remainder of gravy evenly into jars. Add a sprinkle of basil, parsley, and salt to each jar. Fill jars with water or beef broth, leaving 1 inch head space. Ladle into quart jars and wipe rims. Screw on canning lids and process jars in pressure canner for 90 minutes at 15 pounds pressure in areas above 1000 feet in elevation.
- 3 pounds ground venison or beef
- 24 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or 2 quarts canned tomatoes)
- 3 cups dried beans, cooked and drained (I like navy, pinto, or black beans)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 green, red, or yellow sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers. diced
- 2 cayenne peppers, diced
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 9 pint canning jars
Brown ground meat with onion. Add seasonings, cooked beans, peppers, and tomatoes. (Feel free to reduce chili powder and hot peppers if you like your chili mild, or add more if this isn’t spicy enough.) Cook until vegetables are tender. You may need to add water or tomato juice so that chili is not too thick for pressure canning. It should be a little bit runny. Ladle into pint jars and wipe rims. Screw on canning lids and process in pressure canner for 75 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. One pint jar will be a good meal for one or two people.
‘Don’t Be A Chicken’ Soup
- 1 whole chicken (or 4 to 5 cups chopped, cooked boneless chicken, plus water in place of broth)
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 3 or 4 celery stalks, sliced
- 7 carrots, sliced
- 7 potatoes (optional)
- 3 or 4 cups peas or chopped green beans
- 7 bay leaves, salt, pepper, turmeric
- 7 quart canning jars
Place chicken in a stock pot and add enough water for cooking. Bring just to a boil and turn heat down to simmer. Allow chicken to cook until meat is falling off the bones. Remove from heat, carefully lift chicken out of broth and place on a plate or cookie sheet to cool. When cool enough to handle, pick meat off carcass and set aside. Put bones back in broth, add vinegar ( to leach nutritious calcium from bones) and bring to a low boil. While bones are boiling, add vegetables and chopped chicken to 7 quart size canning jars, distributing evenly. Add one bay leaf, a sprinkle of turmeric and pepper to taste, plus ½ tsp salt to each jar. Remove bones and broth from heat after boiling for half an hour (or more), strain through a sieve to remove bones. Pour broth into jars, distributing evenly, and leaving 1” of head space. If there isn’t enough broth, add water to properly fill jars. Wipe rims and screw on canning lids. Process jars for 90 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.
If you are cooking up stewing hens, you may want to cook 2 for this recipe. (Thinking about raising chickens for your own eggs and meat? Read this and this first!) If you prefer pasta to potatoes for the chicken soup, leave the potatoes out of the recipe. Cook the pasta shortly before mealtime and add the canned soup, then heat the whole pot up to a nice simmer. (This will also provide more food for a larger family.) Adding pasta to the soup before canning tends to make it mushy from the long processing time.
Pressure Canning Tips
Check jars for chips and cracks and wash thoroughly before filling with food. It is not necessary to sterilize jars or lids when using a pressure canner. Always wipe rims off jars after filling and before placing lids on. Follow canning instructions and don’t leave your pressure canner unattended while it is processing. Once pressure builds up in canner and the weight or dial begins to jiggle, lower the heat slightly so that the weight jiggles 3 or 4 times per minute. Then keep the heat as even as possible. Don’t turn heat up and down. This will cause unstable pressure in your jars, forcing liquid out. . Do not open pressure canner until it has cooled down and the pressure has returned to normal. When the jars cool, check to be sure they sealed. (If you find that some jars haven’t sealed properly, you can use them right away or refrigerate and use over the next few days.) Remove metal screw bands and wash jars in warm soapy water to remove any broth that may have leaked during processing. Dry and label with contents and date processed. Store your home canned goods in a cool, dark place. Many canned goods will stay good for years, but for best results use them in a year or two.
Comfort Food For The Future
Having full, hearty Mason Jar Meals on hand to feed your family quickly is an important comfort in difficult times. Gather all of the supplies and equipment you need and learn how to can these comfort foods now. Try different recipes and stock up on your favorites. Having this skill will allow you to preserve meat and vegetables you raise, or find on sale, while they are readily available. Rotate your canned goods by using the older ones and canning up fresh supplies. You’ll be glad you stocked up and took the time to learn how to can Mason Jar Meals for the future.
For sugar alternatives, check out our post, 8 Natural Sugar Alternatives You Can Grow…For Canning And Baking.