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Canning Turkey

This is the time of year to plan for canning turkey.  They are often on sale, and I frequently can the turkey day leftovers, and put another sale turkey or two in the freezer to roast and can another day, usually after the holidays, when things aren't so busy.
The day after roasting a turkey, I can both the cooked turkey and broth. If I don’t feel that I have enough time, I make and can the broth on the next day. You MUST use a pressure canner that will can at 10# pressure, not a boiling water bath or small pressure cooker.

Pack the turkey (cut into pieces that fit) into hot, clean jars, about 3 1/2-4 ounces per half pint jar or 7-8 ounces per pint. Leaving 1” headspace, fill the jars with hot broth or water; remove any bubbles with a plastic picnic-type knife or a long bamboo skewer or chopstick. Wipe the rims or the jar carefully, top with a lid prepared according to manufacturers instructions. and add the ring, closing firmly but not with excessive force. Place the jars in the pressure canner on the rack, which is heating with about 3 quarts of hot water in the bottom. Your canner may require more or less water; read the directions. When I have a canner load, I put on the lid, let the steam exhaust in a steady stream 10 minutes, put on the weight, and process 1 hour and 15 minutes at 10 pounds pressure for pints and half pints at 1000' elevation.
You may need different pressure and time depending on your altitude.
Let the canner return to zero on its own, which takes about 30 minutes for mine. Let it set another 5 minutes, remove the lid, facing away from you so you don’t get burned with steam, and remove your jars with a jar lifter to a folded towel or cloth. It is convenient to place the cloth on a large tray or half sheet baking pan, so you can move it if needed without disturbing the jars. Space your jars apart so air can circulate around them. Let them sit, undisturbed, until cool. Check to see that they are sealed, remove rings, and wash jars.  
Admire your handiwork.
For me, a 20# turkey yielded 13 pints of meat and 8 pints of plain broth.  A 15# turkey yielded about 10-11 pints of meat.  This certainly varies, but should put you in the ballpark.  I most often can turkey and meat in half-pints, just enough for us.
You should read your canner instruction book carefully if you haven’t had any experience canning with it, and perhaps can a load of sealed jars containing just water for practice. You should also consider purchasing a current Ball Blue Book and spend some time reading it.
If you have plain broth to can, process the hot broth in hot jars, with 1” headspace for 20 minutes for pints at 10# pressure.

I have paid 4 times as much for a cup of chicken or turkey in cans from Costco. A 12 oz. can yielded only 6 ounces of cooked meat, the rest was broth.  This turkey, canned, cost me 30¢ per cup or 4 oz. of meat.
One mistake I have made are not measuring my headspace and not getting enough; as the contents of the jar start boiling, the liquid expands, if there is not enough headspace, the liquid will be siphoned from the jar, sometimes causing seal failure. The other mistake was filling out a canner load of meat with some jars of plain broth. At the length of time it takes to can meat, the broth becomes super-heated and often siphons out of the jar into the canner. I now can the broth separately - it's just less worry.
Two other mistakes I have seen others do are leaving the jars in the canner too long after it has returned to zero, and not letting the pressure return to zero on its own – that may take a half hour or more.  Both things will cause seal failure.
If your jars don't seal within 2 hours, refrigerate them, use them right away, or freeze them until you can use them.
Try some of our recipes for using your canned turkey or chicken HERE.

12 comments:

  1. Love this post! I'm hoping you can answer a question for me. I'm new to canning meat and I tried canning chicken when it was on sale using my pressure canner. Some of the jars ended up with some of the meat above the broth (exposed to air instead of swimming in the broth). They sealed fine, though. Are they still good and do you know the shelf-life of canned meats?

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    1. Don't worry about your jars...if the sealed fine and smell good when you open them, they should be fine.
      Sometimes the jars get a little too full and some of the liquid siphons out. It may discolor your meat above the liquid a little, throw it away if the color bothers you, but it should be OK to eat.
      I usually try to turn over my canned goods within 2 years; that said, with a little loss in nutritive value, they are usually good for years if kept in a cool, dry place. Be sure to wash them well and remove the rings so they don't rust the lids.
      Look at the bottom of our post for some recipes to try using your canned chicken.

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  2. Great post. Love your blog. Thanks for sharing your incredible talent.

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  3. Hello.Thanks for the great post! Cant wait to try it. One question ~ does the meat have to be hot or just the broth and jars?Thanks!

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    1. Your meat needs to be warm, so that it will get to the correct temperature during processing. If I have refrigerated the cooked meat before canning it I warm it up a little before packing.
      This is a "hot pack" recipe; I find it easier to debone poultry after it's been cooked. It only needs to be cooked enough to make it easy to remove the meat from the bone if you are roasting a turkey just to can it.

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  4. We have 2 Turkeys to defrost from a few years ago. I am planning on using them for this. Please forgive the stupid question: How do I get enough broth if I roast them? I remember my Grandma doing something called "carcass soup" after she removed the meat, but unfortunately never paid attention :( Thank you!! I LOVE your site!!

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    1. Home canned turkey stock
      Here are the directions for your turkey stock.
      Remove the meat from the bones, refrigerate it, make your stock.
      The next day, can the meat and stock, warming them up before canning.

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    2. Hey, thanks for the information! its been so useful to us...question, if your canning this in quart jars, what is the cooking time? As I recall, you mentioned 1 hr 15 min for pints... how much time would I add for quart jars?.. thanks for the blog and keep up the good work!

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    3. Quart jars are processed for 1 hour 30 minutes. You'll find that's a lot of turkey to use for a meal for most folks.
      Pint jars yield about 1 1/2 cups of meat, enough for most casseroles or creamed chicken or chicken and noodles for 4-6 people.

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  5. Hi! I found you because I have a canner full of turkey pints and couldn't remember how long to process them. Googled, and you popped up. I'm in Iowa, too. Looking forward to looking through your site and files and recipes.
    ~ Mary

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  6. I just canned two turkeys! Your blog was my backup. I did verify everything with the ball book. Thank-you so much for your incredible talent as this was my first meat canning experience and I was a little nervous. Your clear precise instructions were the most helpful. Diana from Florida

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    1. Diane...Glad to hear of your success! It's great to have those jars ready to use without thawing.

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