Monday, July 3, 2017

A Second Round for Beef Broth

At the end of May, we have had a devastating event. Our upright freezer kicked out. We ended up losing great deal of the squash I froze for this year. We lost our remaining stash of frozen vegetables (you cannot imagine my sorrow over losing lima beans!). We came close to losing our supply of meats from the local farms we regularly visit. Instead, I had to cook up everything that was still below 40 degrees but starting to thaw. We had to toss a few packs of chicken that had risen above that temperature because we were uncertain it could be safely cooked up.

This is a big loss for us and one that has affected how we were cooking this spring, along with our family’s budget. We freeze most of our vegetables for the winter and the following spring, with the goal that we’ll put up at least half of what we eat for the next six or more months. Thankfully, we were near the end of those six months, but we lost several of our favorites.

We freeze a lot of green beans and lima beans, along with mixed vegetables and corn. We also have chicken and beef broths stored away. I’ll occasionally make soups from leftover and freeze those for quick meals.

I told you all about roasting and freezing pumpkin puree, along with butternut squash and acorn squash for dinner. Those go into our bread, soups and a side dishes.

Bringing the beef broth back to a
boil before canning.
The good news was I hadn’t made a new batch of chicken broth that I could have lost. It has been on my list for the last couple weeks. The beef broth would be a big enough loss. I don't make beef broth as often as I make chicken broth, maybe three or four time a years. It takes me three days, rather than two, and I put up a couple of gallons at a time.

I still had six pints and two cups of beef broth frozen in individual containers when the freezer did its bucket kicking. The broth was still icy cold with frozen centers but a little slushy on the sides. Since I couldn't fit those in our kitchen freezer, I needed another way of storing the broth. Time to pull out the pressure canner!

Once canned, the broth can be stored with the jams and jellies, next to the tomato sauces. This puts it on the shelf and out of the very limited freezer space in the kitchen. I spent the evening bringing the thawing broth back to a boil and pressure canning it. Now it’s ready for use in quick soups and gravies.

How to pressure can beef broth

I’ll walk you through the steps of the process. As always, if you have questions or are new to canning, check out National Center for Home Food Preservation’s information on canning meat broths.

The tools:

  • A pressure canner
  • Enough canning jars for your broth
  • Canning funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • Lids and bands for your candy jars

The broth:

At some point we'll talk about making chicken broth and beef broth. There is nothing better than good, homemade broth! We use it a lot of our cooking, especially during the winter months. It makes gravies and sauces, flavors rice and is the base for our soups and stews.  For now you might enjoy this recipe, Homemade Beef Stock Recipe, by one of my favorite bloggers.

Reheating frozen beef broth

I pulled out my beef broth slushies and dumped them straight into the stock pot. Still being partially frozen is good, since it meant the broth is safe to use. If you have any doubt about something you’ve frozen and it’s thawed before you planned on it, check the internal temperature. If the center is still frozen–meaning there are actual ice crystals you can see—it is safe to use immediately.  If it is not partially frozen and you have no idea how long it’s been thawing, throw it away. It’s sad, I know. So is food poisoning.

  • Bring the broth to a boil. It’s necessary to fill your canning jars with boiling broth, but it has a second purpose: heading off any contamination along the way. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for three to five minutes.
  • Wash and heat up your glass canning jars. You don't want to put hot broth into cold jars because you will risk cracking them. Broken glass equals bad. You can run your canning jars through the dishwasher and take them out hot when you need them or let them sit with hot water in them until you’re ready to fill them with hot broth. Be sure to remove the hot water first, then add the broth.
  • Fill your jars, leaving one inch headspace. Canning jars generally have a ring on the outside to indicate your one inch mark. If you are in doubt, use your ruler to measure the distance from the surface of the broth to the top of the jar. It is important to have at least one inch headspace because this will help it seal properly. I know your broth is yummy, but crowding it in less than an inch can cause the jar to break, the seal to fail and other bad things.
  • Place your washed lids on the jars and tighten the canning ring to fingertip-tight. That’s it. Don’t tighten very hard. If you do, the air in the jar cannot expand and escape from under the lid under pressure, which is what causes the vacuum seal of the jar. Instead, the escaping air will have no choice but to shatter your jar. When the jars come out of the canner and have cooled, they will be sealed nice and tight from the vacuum. 
  • Place your canning jars into your waiting pressure canner. I am assuming you’ve already followed your canner’s directions when you get to this point. My canner requires adding two and a half quarts of hot water and the canning basket before I add the jars. Most pressure canners will allow you to stack jars with a second platform inside the canner. Do that if you've got more than eight jars in the canner. It might take a little longer to come up to pressure but won’t affect the canning time.

To pressure can:
Make sure the broth is hot when
you put it in the jars. Follow your
canner's directions when adding water.

If you have any doubts or questions about what you’re doing at this point, go visit NCHFP’s information on Using Pressure Canners.

Check your pressure canner lid. You should be able you should be able to see light through steam vent. If you cannot, that means that your steam vent is blocked. Make sure to clear it away, following the manufacturer's directions.

Add hot water to your pressure canner. I have a 22 quart pressure canner. This means I am adding at least two and a half quarts to the pressure canner. Your canner may require more or less water; again to check with your manufacturer's directions.

Add your hot jars of broth. You are totally ready for this step.

Secure the canner lid properly. I cannot stress this enough. An improperly secured pressure canner lid can be a hazard to you. Follow your manufacturer's directions when in doubt. If you have not used your canner in more than a year, check the gasket and valves to make sure they are functioning and in good condition. If you’re in doubt, take then to your local Cooperative Extension Office.

Turn on the heat. You will want to bring your pressure canner to boil on high heat. You'll hear the water begin to boil and when you see steam venting through the top spout, begin your timer. You want this steam to vent for about 10 minutes.

Once your canner has vented for 10 minutes, releasing the cool air and bringing the temperature inside the canner up, place your 10-pound weight on the canner on the vent spout. You were going to pressure can your broth for 20 minutes at 10 pounds.

Wait until the weight begins to whistle or rise and spin (the dance it does will depend on the canner model you have). Back your heat down just a touch, until the 10-pound weight is gently rocking or jiggling. When it comes to that gentle rock or jiggle, that is when you begin your 20 minute timer.

Are you jiggling? Start the time. If at any time it stops rocking or jiggling, or the pressure drops, you will need to restart your time. That’s because the pressure might have dropped below the level needed to safely can your broth.

Okay, we are in a 20 minute countdown. If there's anything in your kitchen that needs cleaning up, now is a good time to do that. Other options include watching videos of cats.

Once 20 minutes has gone by turn off the heat on your canner. Do not open do not open the canner. You are going to let it cool down naturally. Do not remove it from the stove, do not move it in any direction. You run the risk of breaking the jars.

Depending on the size of your canner, after 45 minutes to 1 hour (I know it's a long time) the canner should be cool and ready to be opened. Open and remove jars with your jar lifter. Place them on a table or counter with a fluffy kitchen towel underneath to help prevent the jars from temperature shock. They are still that hot!

Canned broth will safely keep in your pantry for at least one year.

We’re done here

That’s it! Let the jars rest 12-24 hours to make sure they are first cooled and then sealed. If all looks good, put labels on the jar that say “Beef broth” and the month and year you canned them. (If you’ve ever held a jar up to the light, turned it over several times and thought, “Huh. I wonder what this is and when I canned it,” you will know the wisdom and joy of properly labeling everything.)

Freezer update:

Still don’t have a new freezer but we’re looking at floor models. Auntie needs a freezer! We’ll start freezing the harvest soon and I really miss being able to check the freezer for extra packets of bacon.

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