Friday, November 20, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 1

Someone left a comment in an earlier post, asking me about my go-to recipes for using the foods I can.  I have been thinking about it and have come to the realization that I don't have recipes as such.  As a dedicated carnivore, my main meals usually have meat of some sort as the base, which is why I like to can as much meat as possible.  Unless I have company for a meal, I usually go with quick and easy.  Canned meat is fully cooked and as such lends itself to all sorts of applications.  The best I can do here is tell you what I can and how I use it.

I have more chicken breast on my shelves than any other kind of meat.  That is because it is one of the less expensive meats and local stores run sales fairly often.  And because I like it.  I usually cut the chicken into one-inch pieces to can.  Here is how I use it:

Often I will combine a jar of chicken with a jar of mixed vegetables and a jar of broth (or broth made  with chicken bouillon).  I add dehydrated onion and parsley and whatever seasonings sound good to me.  Heated, that makes a good soup.  Or I might make dumplings, either from scratch or using Bisquick, and drop those on top of the soup for Chicken and Dumplings.  Or I might make biscuits, thicken the soup to a gravy-like consistency for Chicken and Biscuits.

Sometimes I shred the chicken and heat it with barbecue sauce for hot chicken sandwiches.  Or I will take the shredded chicken, add some mayo, onion and pickle relish for cold sandwich spread.

Canned chicken can be used in any casserole recipe calling for cooked chicken.

I am not opposed to having a few convenience foods on my shelves.  I can get large bags of  Stove Top Stuffing at my grocery, and I divide that into meal sized portions to store.  I will make up a portion of the stuffing and stir in canned chicken.  That, served with a vegetable or salad and some cranberry sauce makes a good meal.

Sometimes I use the chicken cubes in a cold macaroni salad - kind of like a tuna salad only with chicken.

One of my favorites is to make a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple chunks, add the chicken cubes and serve it over rice.

If I get to Sam's Club, they carry fresh chicken breast for a reasonable price.  Those chicken breasts are huge - one piece is more than enough for two people.  I will cut that chicken into large chunks for canning.  To use it, I will often just empty a jar into a pan, top with barbecue sauce and heat it in the oven. That makes a good meal with a baked potato and a salad or with a plate of potato salad.  I  will also top the chicken with stuffing and bake it until it is heated through.  It is good that way with a vegetable and maybe some cranberry sauce.

Now and then, whole pork loin goes on sale, and I will buy as much as I can afford.  I always cut maybe half of one loin into boneless pork chops and freeze them.  The rest I cut up the same as the chicken breast for canning and use it pretty much the same way.  It is a nice change of taste from chicken, especially using it for pulled pork sandwiches.

I can some beef in large chunks to use like a beef roast.  A couple of years ago I canned chunks of potatoes and carrots together in quart jars.  I will dump the beef into a pan, surround it with the contents of a quart of potatoes and carrots, add thick slices of onion and bake it until it is heated through and the meat is slightly browned.  That makes a good roast beef Sunday dinner.

I use a lot of the smaller beef cubes for beef stew.  I had previously canned cubed potatoes, carrots and peas together in quart jars.  So I will combine the beef and vegetables, adding a pint of canned diced tomatoes and some dehydrated onion and maybe a bit of parsley along with some beef bouillon or beef soup starter for flavor.  Just a basic beef stew.  Sometimes I will serve it plain with homemade bread or sometimes I will have it over biscuits.

The small beef cubes are good used to make restaurant style hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.

I recently canned the meat from six bone-in hams, cutting the meat and canning it the same as with the other meats.  The large chunks can be used the same as if I were making a traditional ham dinner.

The small chunks can be used the same as many of the chicken dishes.  I also use them to add to scalloped potatoes.

I think that is enough for this post.  I will do another about some of the other foods that I regularly can.  There are those who prefer to freeze meat and I do that, too, freezing enough for about a months worth of meals.  But should I lose power for whatever reason, the frozen meat runs the risk of going bad should it thaw.  There is also the problem of freezer burn.  I find that the home canned meats will last for years if kept in a fairly cool, dark place.  And for someone like me who lacks the patience and inclination to cook fancy meals, the canning solution works well.


  1. Thank-you so much for this post. A paragraph into reading it, I grabbed pen and paper and took notes. All of your ideas are the kinds of meals I gravitate towards. I like the old fashioned comfort foods. Funny enough, in reading your post I remembered that my Mom served biscuits quite often. Her go-to Friday night dinner was leftover beef in gravy over biscuits. Loved it as a kid since there usually wasn't a vegetable or salad with it. As an adult, I'm thinking Dad came home with the paycheck on Friday and it was Mom's way to make due until the Saturday grocery shopping trip.

    I also had not thought of portioning out the Stovetop mix for other meals. I've just been making the whole box - and having to deal with leftovers. Brilliant!
    Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  2. SJ...You are welcome. I hope it helps.
    The Stove Top I'm talking about doesn't come in a box, (But a person can divide the boxes just as easily.) but in a large grocery bag sized package, with many, many servings in it. Cheaper that way than the small boxes. My grocery has a small section of foods in #10 cans (cheese sauce) or bulk sized containers. I buy instant mashed potato flakes in a box that's a little bigger than a #10 can, put the flakes into quart canning jars and just measure out the amount I want.
    I remember my mother stretching meals to make it to Dad's payday, too. That's probably where I got the idea to find different ways to serve the same food. When I make soup, I eat it as soup for a couple of days, then thicken it and eat it over rice or biscuits and freeze any leftovers for a day I don't feel like cooking. I can get a lot of mileage out of one crock pot of soup. :)
    I'm working on Part 2 of using canned food, and hope to post that in a day or so.

  3. ii like dumplings on beef stew, too.
    or anywhere else.
    the dumplings and the stuffing are my favorite parts.
    where i come from, sausage gravy and biscuits are a favorite.

  4. Great information, Vicki, and it shows the versatility of canned meats. I have been using some of our canned chicken to make simple chicken salad with our squash relish and mayo. Tastes great!


  5. deb...I haven't tried dumplings in beef stew - but I will. There was a time that I would go visit my Dad and beg him to make chicken and dumplings for me. His always tasted better. I don't know why, but it probably had something to do with the fact that he made them. :) And yeah, biscuits and gravy are a favorite of mine, too.

  6. Thank you, Fern...I like the convenience and versatility of canned meats. If I were to take full advantage of sales on meat without canning it all, I fear I might lose some to freezer burn or some should I lose power. Living alone as I do, it would be hard for me to use it all if I didn't can it. I have some meats that are 5 years old and still taste as good as the day they were canned. Great way to build up my food storage.

  7. Thanks again for your posts. I took notes again..

    I do have one question regarding canning the cheese sauce. Since you are water bathing it for 90 minutes, why not pressure can it for less time? Just curious and trying to learn.

    I made a great dinner a few nights ago thanks to your blog. Made a skillet dinner combining pre-cooked hamburger from the freezer, frozen mixed veggies and a homemade white sauce. Served it over biscuits. Actually had enough for two dinners. Yum, thanks for the inspiration.
    SJ from Vancouver BC Canada

  8. SJ...I'm always happy if I can help.

    As to the instructions for canning cheese sauce - I got the idea for canning cheese sauce from a post by Jackie Clay. There is a link in my side bar under "Ask Jackie." She is a homesteader who has been canning for many years and I have never had a problem by following her instructions. I thought about pressure canning the cheese, but decided that I might be better off to use the method that had been proven to work as opposed to one that hasn't. I trust her methods completely.

    Your dinner sounds really good. Those are the kind of meals I like to fix. :)

  9. Do you make bone broth from meat you debone to can? I plan on my first attempt at bone broth this winter when things slow down a bit. I think canning is an over looked method to have meat on hand. You don't have to have a farm to do it, you can use local sourced meats and produce you just have to look for it.

  10. Fiona...I use any and all meat bones to make either soup or broth and then can both. I have never made beef broth by roasting bones, but boil them (and chicken and turkey and ham) sometimes with chunks of carrot and celery and sometimes just plain, and can the result to use as a soup starter. There are many of my vintage who just can not farm any more due to age and the slowing down that goes along with it, but you are right. There are ways to accomplish what we want to do without farming. I wish more would come to that realization.