Monday, November 7, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken in a Can {or really a jar}

I'd mentioned on Mary Janes Farmgirl Connection last week that I'd be posting this.  Hopefully, you'll pull out your crockpots, your pressure canners, and some jars, and we can all share this adventure together!

We've been getting better about storing up food in quantity - usually 3-6 months of product at a time.  Because we have gluten issues in my house, I have to get some items at Whole Foods.  Now, the hubs affectionately calls them Whole Paycheck.  I try to take advantage of their sales, and then buy items in case lots.  For example, I use Pacific chicken and beef broth.  They are safe for us.  We use them a LOT!  So, when I see that the broth is on sale at Whole Foods, I buy 2-3 cases of chicken and 1-2 cases of the beef.  By doing that, I save 10% off the sale price.  It's like buying on sale and using a coupon.

We also belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm) that specializes in organic meats and eggs.  For a lot less than I'd spend elsewhere, I get organic, free range, grassfed chicken and beef, and I help out a local farm family.  The bag we bring home fills up most of our little deep freezer.

And then we watched a TV drama about a solar storm...

For those of you who don't know, our beautiful star is feeling her oats these days, kicking up flares, and sending those electromagnetic particles at our lovely little blue planet.  Some scientists say, if Old Sol felt like it, she could send us a big enough flair to knock out the entire power grid.  She's sent big flares before, and recently,  knocking satellites offline.  So, it's not really out of the realm of possibilyt.

And then Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast, and the SNOWTOBER blizzard hit those same folks, some of whom are still without power 9 days after the storm...

It was (and is) time to get serious about what would happen if we lost power, and for a length of time beyond a few days.  FEMA recommends having supplies on-hand for 2-3 days during a disaster.  I think we've all learned that we need to think beyond that time frame.

So I began exploring how to can meat.  Seems simple enough - a lot like canning anything else, just using a pressure canner.  Now, I've never canned meat.  Ever.  Jelly,yes.  Jam, yes.  The most sinful orange pumpkin butter ever, yes.  Fruits and applesauce, yes.  But not meat.  I'm digging the idea of having the meat ready to rock and roll for dinner in a hurry, or to throw in the crockpot.

The directions I found are in the Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the USDA.  You can link to Amazon from my blog and order it there.  There are actually 2 ways to process chicken, which is in my crockpot today for this very purpose, hot and raw.  I'm starting with hot pack because I, too, am a chicken.  Well, I just feel safer starting with cooked meat.  At least til I get the hang of this.  If you're trying this too, this decision will be up to you.  The hot pack directions say to cook your chicken 2/3 of the way done.  Everything I've read online says cook it all the way.  So my birdies are cooking up as we speak.  I will let them chill in the fridge til Wednesday, when I can actually can them.

And, hey, by the way, if you aren't roasting your chicky birds in the crockpot, you should be.  Another BIG THANK YOU to Stephanie O'Dea for this idea.  When you go to Amazon to check out the USDA book, check hers out, too.  She has THE MOST WONDERFUL CROCKPOT BOOKS EVER WRITTEN, and they were a total lifesaver when we found out we had to go gluten-free.

Here's some fun photos from the six chickens in the crockpot today, with some tips.

If you have a bunch of chickens to defrost at once, like I did, use your cooler to help you.  There's no way that these would all fit in the fridge!  I started defrosting Saturday morning, and there was still plenty of ice in my birds.  It's ok - because you are cooking them all day, they will still get done.  Next time, I will start them on Friday morning, and let them go all weekend.  Just be sure to remove giblets and the necks from the cavity.

Frozen Frosty Chicky Birds

My largest crockpot (aka Big Red) will cook 2 chickens at a time, either cut up...

Or whole.

Notice that I seasoned them with salt and pepper.  You can do garlic and lemon, or lemon pepper, or Italian seasonings, or pretty much what your heart desires.  Make It Fast, Cook It Slow has a great mock-rotisserie chicken recipe in it that we love as well.  For the canning process, we're just sticking with something Plain Jane.  At least for now anyway.

With 6 chickens to cook, the pieces of the cut up chickens ended up "roosting" with another whole bird in each of my blue crockpots, as well as in my tiny $5 after-Christmas special crockpot.
Here's a photo of my girls, cooking away.  

Notice they are all cranked up to high.

Also, one of these days, I'll post the how-to for the faux tiles on the backsplash, too!

Hope your Monday is getting your week off to a great start!

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