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Q and A: storing food in a humid environment, canning chicken, and safe pickle recipe

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Storing food in a humid environment

I live in Louisiana where is is summer about 9.5 months a year, very hot and close to 100% humidity a lot of the time. Is it safe, or is there a safe way, to dehydrate chicken, beef, pork etc to be able to store it in food saver vacuum bags and store it in an unairconditioned part of the house. I don’t want to have to store dehydrated foods in the fridge and I’d rather not have to can it in jars. Any advice/info is appreciated.

Vidalia, Louisiana

You can dehydrate your meats, but you must dehydrate it really dry, not “jerky dry” like store jerky is. True dried meat is hard like wood with hardly any moisture at all. If you dehydrate it and store it in vacuum bags, you need to check it often at first to make sure there is absolutely no condensation on the inside of the bags. If you spot some forming, open the bag and further dehydrate the meat to get out more moisture. Personally, I’d prefer to can my meats just to be quicker and have no possible loss. — Jackie

Canning chicken

I followed the Ball Canning recipe for cold pack chicken, cutting it up, packing into pint jars, and pressure canning for the correct time at the correct pressure. When they came out of the canner, I noticed that the meat seemed to be a solid chunk, as the pieces had stuck together. Do I need to be worried that it might have been too dense for the heat to penetrate?

A second canning question: Occasionally one or two of my jars will lose some of the fluid during the canning process. I leave the jars in the canner, weight on, until at least 20 minutes after the pressure reaches zero and once in awhile overnight. What causes the fluid loss from the jars? The seal seems very secure, but is it safe?

Sharon May
Carlsbad California

It just sounds like you raw packed your chicken. That’s what happens when you do and is why I stopped raw packing my meat. It still is fine; there is plenty of liquid in the jars to make safe processing. BUT the meat doesn’t look as pretty as when you pre-cook it a bit so the pieces don’t stick together in a glob on the bottom of the jar. Your chicken is fine and safe to eat.

It is a common thing for jars to sometimes lose some liquid during processing. Don’t worry. But please STOP leaving your jars in the canner a long while after the pressure reaches zero (ten minutes is about it), and PLEASE don’t leave them in the canner overnight. To seal effectively, the hot jars need to be quickly removed from the canner after it reaches zero (let them sit for five or ten minutes after this point, then remove them), then set out on a dry folded towel at room temperature. This temperature change is what securely seals the jars. I once was exhausted from canning a truck load of sweet corn left over from a farmer’s market day where it suddenly stormed. I’d canned for 36 hours straight and went to bed leaving a canner full of jars. The next morning, I removed them and all seemed to be sealed. I stored them in the basement on my pantry shelves. Two weeks later there was a horrid smell down there and I found that more than half of the jars had come unsealed and spoiled. And slowly, the others lost their seal, too! What a waste. I’ve never left jars in the canner after processing since then.

I’d mark and use those jars you left overnight in the canner first and be sure to check each seal before using. — Jackie

Safe pickle recipe

I’m an experienced canner but not so much with pickling. Therefore, I’m not sure what makes a pickle recipe “safe.” A friend gave me a couple quarts of pickled hot yellow chiles with carrots, onions, and garlic. His recipe says to heat 3 parts distilled water with some salt. Add 1 part white vinegar and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. He processed 25 minutes in a boiling water bath. Even without knowing how much salt he used, this recipe sounds iffy. Shouldn’t there be more vinegar? And neither of the quarts had sealed. Do you think they are safe

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

I’d thank him nicely, then after he’s gone, I’d dump out the pickled peppers, etc. That’s not enough vinegar to make low-acid vegetables acidic enough to pickle safely. Most pickled pepper canning recipes call for only about 15 minutes (quarts) in a boiling water bath canner so I’m wondering why his didn’t seal. I wouldn’t eat pickled veggies at his house. You might give him a copy of my canning book for Christmas! — Jackie

2 Responses to “Q and A: storing food in a humid environment, canning chicken, and safe pickle recipe”

  1. Jackie Strader Says:

    S.P. I am from New Orleans and I used to dehydrate a lot of meat. You have to really be careful, because the humidity is so rough, it often messes up the seal from the vacuum sealer, and the meat seems to almost immediately start to rehydrate, and subsequently spoil. It can be done, but I would make sure you keep a close eye on it, to make sure the bags remain vacuum sealed. Although, I have to say, after Katrina, the stuff I canned and dehydrated really saved my family’s butt!!!

  2. Maureen Says:

    I have been wanting to try to can meats but I have been too chicken. LOL… I’ll be looking for a sale this week and give home canning a try.

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