For a long time canning anything was intimidating to me. Even after becoming a pickling expert, canning meats seemed out of reach. Then I had a friend bring me some samples, and I was hooked. I could not believe that meat could last months or even years on the pantry shelf with just a little extra elbow grease.
Of course, bacon is the holy grail of meats in my opinion. I have canned bacon from the grocery store in the past, but I intend to go hog hunting for the first time this summer.
In our state there is no limit on how many wild hogs you can take, so preservation is going to be key. I plan to salt cure and smoke some of the meat, but a huge portion will be canned.
I have fond memories of spending summers on my grandfather’s hog farm as a child. We worked hard and were baked in the sun as heat reflected off of the red clay soil. We were fortunate that we always had bacon for breakfast and ham for Sunday supper.
I also remember my grandmother spending hours in the kitchen delicately preparing the jams, jellies, veggies, and meats in shiny mason jars.
There were dozens of jars lining the baseboards in her garage. When fixing meals she would have me run out to the garage to select the perfect jar for what she was fixing.
In this article I want to take the seemingly complex process of canning bacon using a pressure canner, and simplify it. My goal is to give step by step instructions to allow anybody to be successful in learning this skill.
Self-reliance is a major priority in our family, and I hope we can help it be one in your family as well.
A Word of Caution
However, many folks have been doing it a long time, and the fatalities of foodborne botulism typically happen due to not following the recipe to the letter.
Use your best judgement. Don’t can bacon if you’re new to canning, and get someone to help and watch you as you’re doing it for the first time. If you have additional safety tips, please leave them in the comments section below.
This is optional, however pre-cooking the bacon will make it taste better at the end.
To do it, preheat the oven at 375F and cook them in the oven in trays for at least 10 minutes. Be sure to place them on parchment paper inside the trays.
This will not fully cook them, but that’s on purpose.
The condition of your jars, lids, and rings is vitally important. If you cut corners in this aspect it could lead to food poisoning. Please take the time to ensure that the equipment you are using will not make you or your family sick.
- Inspect your jars, and make sure there are no chips or cracks. That means even a little defect in the jar could ruin the process, so look them over carefully.
- Rings must not have any dents or rust, but can be reused. That being said, they are so inexpensive that I would not hesitate to buy new ones.
- Lids cannot be reused in any condition. Buy new ones for each batch.
- Wash all of these in soapy, warm water. Wash off any excess soap. You can run them through the dishwasher if you like, but be sure to arrange them in a way that will avoid any dents or chips. The pressure canner will also sterilize the jars, but we at least want to make sure there is not dust, debris, flies or anything you wouldn’t want to put in your mouth.
Bring a large pot with water to a boil and set your jars, lids, and rings in the water. Keep them in the water until you are ready to fill them.
You want the temperature of all components to be as hot as possible when you fill and seal the jars. Because of this, you will likely want to use jar tongs to avoid burning your hands.
Placing the Bacon
Lay out a sheet of parchment, butcher, or brown paper one foot wide by two feet long. You can buy rolls of inexpensive brown paper at the hardware store or you can purchase the other types of paper at the grocery store:
Stretch out strips of bacon side by side without any gaps or overlapping. You should be able to fit somewhere between six and eighteen strips depending on how thick the cut is:
Use scissors to trim off excess paper on either side. Do not leave any excess paper on any of the four sides.
Place another piece of paper of the same size on top. If needed, trim it to the right shape and size to that it is a perfect match:
Place a rod or yardstick lengthwise on top to weigh down the top sheet. Place it in the center as we will be folding your bacon over at this point.
Fold the whole thing in half lengthwise. Now the width of your strip of paper and bacon should be about six inches wide.
Tightly roll the folded package up like a sleeping bag tucking as you go. If you do not roll this as tight as possible, it may not fit in the jar.
Shove the roll into a wide mouth quart jar. You may have to twist the package as you push it inside. Remove only one strip of bacon if it will not fit, and try again.
Repeat for all of the bacon. One quart jar should hold about one lb. of bacon.
Tip: purchase “the ends” which are always cheaper than bacon strips, and can those.
Capping The Jars
- Remove lids and rings from the boiling water and twist them onto all the jars. You may have to shove them down a bit as some of the paper and bacon may be sticking out the top.
- DO NOT ADD LIQUID. Bacon has enough fat that it needs nothing added to it.
- Put a few inches of water in your pressure canner as directions instruct.
- Place your jars in the canner and let the steam move around them.
- Secure the lid on the canner so steam can only be released through the vents.
- Let the canner vent for 10 minutes allowing air to escape and pressure to build up. If it is not vented properly you will get a false reading.
- If using a dial gauge, close the petcock. If using a weighted gauge, put the weight in place.
- Follow the directions to figure out when you have 10 lbs. of pressure, or whatever the number for your altitude. 10 lbs is at sea-level up to 1000 feet (300 meters), so if you live in places like Colorado or Idaho, you’ll want more pressure. Figure out the exact pressure here.
- Process at 10 lbs. (or more) of pressure for 90 minutes.
Please note: Each pressure canner model is different, so get familiar with the directions before using it for the first time.
Cooling, Storing and Cooking
- Follow the instructions for the pressure canner as to how to cool and open the unit. Be careful not to burn yourself.
- You should expect some liquid in the bottom of the jars. When they cool it will solidify back into solid fat.
- Set out your jars to cool and monitor them for a proper seal. First listen for a pinging sound as they cool. Never try to cool them faster in cold water or a refrigerator.
- Next, check to make sure the center of the lid is pulled down and that you cannot push it down further.
- Any jars that do not have a good seal can be resealed with a new lid or you can use the contents right away.
- If you are not using standard lids, follow the instructions on how to check for a good seal.
- Label and date your jars and store in a cool, dry place. Your food is now preserved for six to twelve months depending on storage conditions.
- Use as needed by simply opening the jar, removing the paper, and frying as usual.
So let us take a minute to put this in perspective. When you have uncooked bacon at room temperature it is only good for a few hours. When you have bacon in a refrigerator, it is good for about a week. By using this method we preserve bacon for six months to a year.
Bacon is a wonderful survival food. It has fat and animal protein… the two items most difficult to acquire. My family of three could easily eat one pound of bacon per day if that was our only source of meat.
That means if I bagged enough hogs or spent some money at the grocery store, I could can meat to last six months in just a few days. I could do all this without using up any space in my freezer or refrigerator.
The more we rely on modern technology like freezers and refrigerators, the harder a SHTF situation will be. Along with a few other preservation methods, I find canning to be absolutely vital to our efforts in self-reliance. If you take the time to learn this skill, it will definitely serve you well in the future.