Have you ever found yourself in a dilemma, with new pullets arriving and flock of old hens that need to go? Do you ever brainstorm of ways to actually use these old layers for food? If so, it’s time you learned how to pressure can old hens!
While your older fowl may not be suitable for roasting, they will be delicious and chewable after being processed in a pressure canner!
WHAT YOU NEED
To pressure can old hens, you’ll need a pressure canner (different than a pressure cooker), the gumption to butcher your old gals, the know-how to skin each bird and then divide meat into sections.
The easiest (and fastest) way to skin a bird is while the feathers are still intact. Here’s a butchering tutorial that outlines the process we use: How to Clean and Use Old Hens.
This aside, let’s talk details of pressure canning!
HOW TO PRESSURE CAN OLD HENS
- 7 quart jars
- 7 medium size butchered hens, skinned
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp parsley (or any herb except sage)
- 1 tsp curry (optional)
Directions: if the bird has lots of fat (old hens usually do), trim it off. Fat isn’t safe to pressure can in large amounts. While you’ll always get a wee bit in each jar, you want to remove obvious blobs. But don’t throw it out! You can save it for making schmaltz.
Cut breast meat off of each bird. Also remove thighs and separate them from the drumstick. If desired, also remove wings.
When finished, chicken carcasses should be frozen in zip lock bags so you can make bone broth later on.
Ensure that your 7 quart jars are clean. In the bottom place a tsp each of salt, parsley and curry.
Begin filling jars with meat. Put drumsticks in first (or they won’t fit). Fill in the remaining space with breast meat, wings and thighs. Note: for safety in processing, limit breast meat to 2-3 pieces per jar.
It’s important to avoid packing the meat into place. A loose pack ensures that the heat will be able to fully penetrate everything.
Leave 1-2 inches of headspace between the meat and the rim of your jar’s mouth.
Add water to the jar, filling halfway. Take a butter knife and run it along the inside of the jar’s wall. This will release air pockets the chicken has created. Add more water if needed.
When all the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a vinegar-dampened paper towel. This will remove any fatty oils that might inhibit a seal.
Put a new, clean lids in place and tighten down with metal bands.
Add water to your pressure canner (as directed in your manual) and place chicken-laden jars inside.
Process quarts according to your elevation and your pressure canner’s instructions for chicken (important!) with bone in.
Ensure jars have cooled and sealed before storing on your pantry shelves.
As you can see, the meats shrink inside the jar and release extra juices (which is why we only half-filled the jar with water).
You can use your home canned chicken in a variety of ways! It goes well with sandwiches, wraps and salads and can be used in soups, casseroles, pasta, meat pies, etc.
While butchering your faithful old birds is a difficult task, it is worth utilizing them one last time. Having prepared meat on hand is wonderful thing! You won’t regret it!