Canning Bacon

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First, the disclaimer:  The USDA does not recommend canning bacon and has determined the practice to be unsafe.  Once again, nothing you see me do on this blog should in any way be construed as a recommendation that you do the same.  I make my own decisions.  You’ll have to make yours.

That said, here’s how I can bacon.

To keep from repeating myself too much there is some information on pressure canning on the Canning Milk post.

You may ask, “Why can bacon?  Can’t you just leave it hanging in the smokehouse?”  Sure, if you make your own bacon you can simply hang it, however, here in Oklahoma it will go rancid in the summer.  Some may contest that, but it’s a fact down here in the south.  Also, you may purchase your bacon in which case it’s a mild, wet cure and absolutely won’t keep at ambient temperatures.

For this post I’m canning 20 pounds of bought bacon that we found for $1.90/lb locally, cheaper than we can buy fresh side meat for curing our own and saving us a trip to The City to get it. (In Oklahoma, at least south central and western Oklahoma, “The City” is synonymous with Oklahoma City.)  Next summer there will be pigs again, Lord willing,  and next fall perhaps a post on how we cure bacon.

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Most of the online bacon canning instructions describe wrapping the slices in brown paper or parchment paper.  I don’t do anything that fussy.  Apparently it’s an aesthetic thing to try to produce nice slices for frying, though the end result pictures I’ve seen aren’t much prettier than what comes out of my jars.  I don’t buy nicely sliced bacon, anyway.  Usually I get ends and pieces or irregulars like the ones in the pictures above.  Plus, my husband and grandson don’t set much store by pretty when it comes to bacon.  Personally, I like to can it in half pints.  A half-pint is the perfect amount of meat and fat for me to make about a quart of bacon gravy to go over biscuits.  David and Oran, however, disagree so I’ve started canning it in pints – roughly a pound to the pint – so there’s leftovers to nibble on.

I pre-cook the bacon in a 350 degree or so oven on large sheet pans.  My pans hold 3 pounds a piece.  You can also fry it in a skillet.  Cook it until it’s about half-done.

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Fill your jars.  I absolutely don’t worry with placing the slices nicely.  I just stuff them in with a pair of tongs.  Make sure to use a jar funnel to keep as much grease as possible off the rims.  Divide the accumulated drippings from the cooking sheet or skillet between the jars. I pour them into a Pyrex measuring cup and use that to pour  into the jars.  This batch made about 1/3 cup drippings per jar.

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Grease is the enemy of a good seal.  I go to extremes when canning meats to avoid grease on the jars or rims.  Wipe the rims well.  I do three wipes.  The first is with a just slightly soapy rag, turning the rag to a clean part for each jar.  Second, I wipe with a clean water rag, again using a new part of the rag for each jar.  Finally, I wipe with yet another rag dampened in vinegar.  I also add about 1/4 cup vinegar to the canning water to keep the jars  cleaner.  On the left, no vinegar (and a cooler jar.)  On the right, vinegar in the water.  No kidding.

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Position your lids and rings.  I keep them in simmering water while I fill the jars.  Place the jars in the canner, fit the lid (not the weight) and heat till steam escapes the vent port (the stem where the weight sits.)  Let it exhaust for 10 minutes and place the weight. I use a weighted gauge canner instead of a dial gauge and process everything except milk at 15 pounds.  (Safe canning pressures depend on altitude.  Here’s further info with a chart.) I prefer the weighted gauge because I can hear it rocking and am less likely to wander off and forget that I’m canning. 

My weighted gauge has 3 parts.  The main part, on the left, is the 5 pound gauge.

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Add one ring and it becomes a 10 pound gauge.

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Add the last ring and it is 15 pound gauge.

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Process for 75 minutes for pints.

When we get ready for bacon I pop open a jar , dump the contents in a skillet, tease it apart and fry it till it’s crisp. 

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For gravy I add enough flour to make a nice roux – enough that there’s no free grease floating around but not so much that it looks like dry crumbs – usually about 2 tablespoons flour per tablespoon bacon grease for each cup of gravy.  You eventually learn to eye-ball it.  Cook the roux a minute or two, don’t let it burn.  Whisk in milk (canned milk works great), the amount depending on how much roux you made, and bring it to a boil, stirring to keep it from sticking.  Cook, stirring for 3 to 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over hot biscuits or fried potatoes.  We also use our canned bacon in eggs, greens, beans, potato soup or Oran’s Egg Pie.

Finally, just for interesting reading, here are the CDC botulism surveillance statistics for the last few years.

http://www.cdc.gov/nationalsurveillance/botulism_surveillance.html

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12 thoughts on “Canning Bacon

  1. Judy,
    Thanks for the post, very interesting, I’ve only canned meat one time and it was a success. If you do it right I believe the risk is very low – and if it doesn’t smell right – for goodness sake, don’t eat it! LOL
    I thought your link to the CDC was very interesting – the statistics prove once again that women are smarter than men. Ha!

    1. Thanks, Manette, for commenting. In general the USDA does have approved procedures for canning meat in liquid. The way I and most others can bacon more closely resembles the old, used to be approved, methods for things like ham, sausage and pork chops where there was no added water, only a few tablespoonfuls of fat. My mom’s old Kerr book from the ’60’s had instructions for all 3. Later they decided those methods were unsafe and only recommended cannings meats, hot or cold pack, in liquid.
      s

  2. LOL, I’m a guy! I saw the word “bacon” while looking through the WordPress Reader, so of course I was compelled to click and come here. I don’t can food, never tried but I support every effort people have to keep bacon around! hehe #BaconForLife ~~ Mark

    1. Hi Mark. It’s cool. Guys can can stuff, too. (I always have a hard time structuring sentences about canning. LOL). My guy goes it all the time. As I mentioned, check back next fall and we may be curing some bacon. Or, just check back in a couple of weeks and if we get a deer we’ll be making cured venison loin.

  3. Very cool, Judy. Thanks for sharing! I’ve wondered about this. We, too, love bacon. In eggs, beans, soup, a big pot of collard greens, and straight off the fork. I’ve heard others talk about canning bacon and am encouraged by your “fry it till its crisp” remark. I wondered if it would change texture like ground meat seems to.

    Any thoughts, besides being scared of everything, on why the USDA would not recommend canning bacon?

    Oh, and Stewart was the pioneer of our our meat canning career as well. 🙂

    1. Shannon, it does change it a little, but it’s not unpleasant. Canning bacon seems to give it a more delicate texture, similar to the effect on ground meat. I believe it’s because the collagen is broken down in the canning process, but that’s just my theory. After combing literally pages of Google, the only real reason I could find for the USDA not approving canning bacon is the lack of a “research based recipe.” That’s actually their reason for lots of non-recommended items. I think, as with many situations in today’s world, it’s as much about liability as safety. The old canning books all had approved recipes for various fatty meats canned without additional water. I don’t know when these recommendations were retracted, sometime after the ’60’s. I suspect it has something to do with getting the air in the jar exhausted and forming the vacuum, which is actually just a partial vacuum. I see various reasons scary reasons given by people other than actual USDA representatives on many sites and blogs, but no real explanation by the government experts themselves. It would be interesting to look at the botulism statistics for the years before the old fatty meat recipes were retracted. 🙂 Baked potatoes wrapped in foil at the Golden Corral are a whole lot scarier to me than anything I can at home.

  4. We raise our own pigs and have fresh bacon, not cured. Can I use your canning method using our fresh bacon?
    Also, I have a question regarding canning meats. I use the raw pack method 99% of the time when canning vegetables and fruits. Why do most folks that post how to can meats use the hot pack method? It seems like the pre-cooking of the meat and then packing the meat in the jar hot and processing for 90 minutes or more would make the meat mushy or at least change the texture in a negative way. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Patrice, do you mean fresh bacon as in side meat with no salt or seasoning? Just curious, but I see no reason it couldn’t be treated the same as cured bacon. I, too, generally raw pack especially chicken and rabbit. Hot packing does shrink the meat some so you can get more in the jar and have less floatage (a word?) Sometimes, if I have time, I hot pack partially roasted meats for the additional color and flavor but it’s generally not cooked long enough to have an adverse affect on the final texture. Though both hot and raw pack are approved methods, I think many people feel somehow safer hot packing. Either method of canning does make any meat super tender and if you get too carried away stirring whatever you’re making with it – stew, stroganoff, etc. – you can end up with stringy mush. Cooking with home canned meat is a learning process which I probably should address in a future post.

      1. Yes, the bacon has no salt or seasoning. When I cook the bacon, AKA pork belly,
        I fry it as you would bacon bought from a store. It does take a little longer to
        fry and when finished frying I sprinkle a little sea salt over it. The flavor of fresh bacon is delicious. Thanks for the information. I am going to can some of our
        bacon using your directions. Thank you so much!

  5. Am just about to can bacon using your method as I like the idea of canning without paper. It creates a mouth watering look with the partially cooked bacon, and also makes for easy removal. There’s no phfutzing, it goes right into the cast iron skillet, perfect!
    So with little ado, I’m off to give it a try, thanks!
    OH, it’s end of Nov/14, hope you are able to try that curing process for yourselves.

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