Corned Beef is a staple around our household. The prices have gone up and up in recent years, but they still go on sale around St Patrick’s Day every year. This year we took a “quick run” to the grocery store the weekend before, just to grab a few things. (Yeah, right!) We were not even thinking about St. Patrick’s Day, but as we walked past the meat section at the back of the store we noticed that they had plenty of corned beef roasts, and at a steeply discounted price! (So much for only getting a few necessities.) We bought just over 15 lbs worth of corned beef right then and there! Out of the 5 roasts, we consumed one (slow-cooked in water with flavor packet for 6-8 hours), one we kept in our deep freeze, and the three remaining, we canned up. Most corned beef comes vacuum-packed in a bit of brine with the flavoring packet tucked in there. It has already been “cured” in brine (for that’s the definition of “corned”) and if you notice the “best by/use by/sell by” date, it’s literally months down the road. It indeed lasts for a very long time in its original packaging. There are even recipes online on how to corn your own beef! But today I’m going to show you how to can the “raw” roasts right out of the package. Canning it will allow it to last much longer, and no need for refrigeration or freezing. Plus, the process of canning cooks it, creates its own juices/broth, etc. All you have to do is pop open the jar, add it to your recipe, and voilà: you have an instant meal. Let’s get started!
To get started, you will need pint-sized canning jars and a pressure canner (along with all your canning tools, of course). Any low-acidic foods such as meat and/or vegetables should be pressure canned, not water-bathed.
Each pint-sized jar will hold approximately 1 pound of meat. The three roasts we canned were approximately 3-point-something pounds each. We had a total of 10.17 lbs of corned beef to process, so we got out 10 clean jars. It was exact. The “.17” extra weight of pieces we shoved into whatever jar we thought could hold another piece or two. So if you figure one jar per pound of meat, you’ll be pretty spot-on.
Prepare the Meat:
Take the roast out of the packaging. We cut open one of the long ends of the plastic, sliding the meat through (like giving birth LOL), to keep most of the brine inside the packaging, but we do not rinse the meat! You want some of that brine to adhere to the meat for flavor. We do, however, rinse off the seasoning packet to clean it off and set it aside. We’ll open it up and use it later on in the process.
Cut the roast – fat, silver skin layer and all – into 3/4″ -1″ chunks. Put everything into a large bowl. Do NOT put the meat in your jars yet.
Once all of your meat is in the bowl, open up one of the flavor packets and sprinkle it over the meat. Using your hands, mix the first flavor packet up with the meat. After the first packet is incorporated, repeat with the second, third, etc (depending on how many roasts you’ve cut up).
Packing the Jars:
Now is the time to pack the meat into clean, sterilized pint-sized jars. The jars do NOT have to be hot: just clean. Using a canning funnel, pack the seasoned meat chunks into the jars until they are about 1″ from the top (just to the neck of the jar). At this point, if you want, you can add a pinch of kosher salt to each jar, but not necessary.
Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel dipped in hot water (I dip it in the hot water from the pan that holds the hot lids).
Apply hot lids and rings, just hand-tightening the rings. Do not tighten the rings as much as you can. This gives no leeway for air to escape for the vacuum process that happens when pressure canning, and can cause all kinds of problems: siphoning, bubbled lids, etc.
Processing the Jars:
I have a 23-qt pressure canner which holds 16 pint-sized jars. But because I only had 10, I put 8 jars on the bottom rack, stacked another rack on top of those, and added the remaining two jars on top. With pressure canning, you do NOT want your jars’ lids to be covered with water. Once you have all your jars stacked at the bottom and you notice water covering the jars via displacement, scoop out some of the water, just until the tops are not covered.
Once all the jars are in the canner, lock the lid and turn the heat on high. When it begins to boil and steam comes out the vent, set your timer for 10 minutes and just let it go! Venting for 10 minutes is necessary, to get all the air out of the canning chamber.
After 10 minutes, apply the jiggler and bring it up to pressure (10# for sea level, more pressure for higher elevations – see chart below):
Once the jiggler begins to shake, and/or the pressure gauge has come up to the proper pressure, turn the heat down to the point where the pressure is consistent and the jiggler keeps moving every few seconds. When reaching that point, immediately set your timer for 75 minutes and just let the pressure canner do its thing.
When the 75 minutes of processing time is complete, turn the heat off completely and just let the pressure canner sit there. DO NOT REMOVE THE JIGGLER! It needs to come back down to normal (0) pressure. Once the pressure is back down to zero, it is safe to remove the lid of the canner and move the jars to a towel for cooling.
Once cooled, check lids for good seal by holding the jar by the lid. If it pops off, it needs to be refrigerated and used right away. If it holds, you’re good to go!
You will notice that once cooled, there is plenty of broth filling the jars, and a fat cap at the top. This is perfectly normal! Also, as in my case when canning this, we had some siphoning and had to wash off the cooled jars with warm soap and water before labeling. Sometimes siphoning happens and the jars can become greasy on the outside. Don’t worry about it. Just wash them off, and put them in the pantry. Enjoy!