Last week I received 40 lbs of beautiful, plump extra large chicken breasts from Zaycon. They sell these only in 40 lb boxes, so you really have to have a way to preserve all this beautiful chicken. For me, a combination of canning and freezer is the answer.
So what do you do with 40 lbs of chicken?
I'm spoiled by my local grocery store. I like chicken breasts to be tear-dropped shaped and without any back or side meat attached. So I pull these breasts out one by one, trim off any fat (there certainly isn't much, but there is some and if you're canning it's better to have as little as possible), then trim off any side or back meat. Of course I don't waste any of that fat or meat! It all goes into a large bowl to be dealt with later.
I use my vacuum sealer to bag up 6 packages of two breasts each - enough for a nice meal of baked chicken for the two of us. (Actually, these breasts are SO large that we've been dividing one between us!).
|32 pints of beautiful chicken|
Chicken is especially easy to can. I cut all the chicken into large chunks - about 2 inches by 2 inches, packed it into a pint mason jar (you could do quarts), and pressure can according to current tested safety measures (See National Center for Home Food Preservation). I add no water or broth. As the raw chicken is pressure canned, it creates it's own broth.
|Trimmings for broth|
Once the chicken was canned, it was time to move on with those scraps of meat, fat and skin I kept when trimming the chicken breasts. I chopped up (all measurements approximate) 1 cup of celery (with leaves!), 1 cup of carrots, 1 cup of onions, and 2 cloves of garlic. I put a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of my soup stock pot, added the veggies and just cooked until the onions were translucent. Then I added the chicken (meat, skin, fat) and 15 quarts of water. . I brought this to a gentle boil, used a slotted spoon to skim off the top of the broth, then let it simmer all afternoon - about six hours in all. I let the stock cool for a bit, then poured it through a sieve into another large stockpot. I put the stockpot full of broth, covered, out in my garage to cool for the night. I hand picked through the veggies and chicken to find the nice chunks of chicken to use later in soup. I threw out the veggies and chicken skin.
The next morning after the chicken stock had cooled thoroughly, I brought it in and used a spoon to spoon off the chicken fat that had risen to the top and solidified. What was left was 15 quarts of a beautiful golden chicken stock.
|Chicken soup, broth and I made 4 qts of grape juice too!|
There's still more! After canning the 7 quarts of chicken soup, I still had lots of broth left, and canned 9 pints and 2 quarts.
So, from my 40 lbs of chicken, I made:
6 packages - 2 breasts each - for the freezer
7 quarts of homemade chicken soup
32 pints of canned chicken in broth
9 pints of chicken stock
2 quarts of chicken stock
What will I use all that canned chicken in? Lots of YUMMY dishes! First, anything you use canned tuna in - salad, casseroles, etc - you can substitute the canned chicken. I use it in Chicken Alfredo over spaghetti, or in a yummy Chicken Alfredo and Brocolli Pizza. I combine it with black beans, corn and salsa to make chicken burritos (these freeze well too). And probably my favorite recipe is to make No Butter Butter Chicken (just adjust the recipe to simply reheat your chicken, since you don't have to cook it.). I can make another family favorite, Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings. Mmm. it's all good!
If you're new to pressure canning, here are some links that will help you. It's important to follow strict safety guidelines in canning, especially when canning meat.
Basic pressure canning instructions:
Basic freezing instructions:
How to make chicken broth:
How to pressure can chicken broth:
Safe recipe to make chicken soup for pressure canning
Recipes to use your canned chicken:
Other pressure canning recipes for chicken:
Here are the exact supplies I use: