Canning Meatloaf: Enjoy Homemade Flavor Anytime, Anywhere
Recently, there has been a resurgence in preserving food at home, including canned meatloaf. Canning meatloaf at home is a helpful exercise for so many reasons. Not only are you dodging the additives and preservatives in commercially made products, but you’re also using recyclable containers and saving yourself money.
When canning meatloaf, it is recommended for your safety to use a research-tested recipe and the correct apparatus and method. In addition, the canner you use should be USDA-approved, and you should follow its instructions based on your altitude and the weight of the jars.
Canned meatloaf is convenient for using excess meat (e.g., from a hunting trip), food prepping, camping trips, and stocking up your pantry. You can store it for up to a year under the right conditions, and you can reuse the jars for future meatloaf canning exercises. However, to keep your meatloaf as tasty and safe as possible, you can read further on how to safely can meatloaf.
How To Can Meatloaf Safely
Canning meatloaf is a relatively straightforward process, but you must do so carefully. The National Center for Home Food Preservation strongly suggests following a research-tested recipe when canning ground meat. The reason for this is that meat is a low-acid food, and consuming poorly preserved meat can lead to food-borne botulism (something we’d like to avoid).
In addition to food safety standards, you also need to ensure your pressure canner is in excellent working order. Consider that you will have sealed glass jars filled with meatloaf cooking inside a pot, building up steam pressure: things could get wild if a gasket is faulty or something explodes.
For further information on food canner safety, you can read the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s article: Using Pressure Canners. Additionally, if it is your first time canning at home, they have another article worth reading called Principles of Home Canning.
What Do You Need To Can Meatloaf?
To make canned meatloaf, you will need the following:
- An approved recipe that has been research-tested,
- A USDA-approved pressure canner (not a pressure cooker), and
- Glass mason jars (pint, quart, 1.5-pint).
You will find many recipes for canning meatloaf on the internet and in recipe books. However, you can read a guideline for choosing meat for canning here.
Regarding pressure canners, be sure that the one you have or buy is USDA-approved. The USDA recommends a canner should be able to hold at least four quart-sized jars. Additionally, you must follow the directions explicitly, based on your altitude, to avoid serious injury.
Penn State University has a video called Selecting Canners for Home Food Preservation, which is worth watching. It discusses basic and alternative canners, including the following:
- Pressure canners,
- Boiling water bath canners,
- Atmospheric steam canners,
- Electric water bath canners, and
- Fresh Tech automatic canners.
When it comes to selecting jars, it would be helpful to choose wide-mouth jars with no shoulders. In this way, you will be able to slide the meatloaf out in one piece without needing to scoop it out.
The Process Of Canning Meatloaf
Once you have your ingredients, jars, and canner ready, you can start the process of canning meatloaf.
1. Prepare The Ingredients
Depending on your meatloaf recipe, your ingredients, and method should look something like this:
Canned Meatloaf Ingredients
- Ground meat (e.g., a mix of 80/20 and 93/7),
- Vegetables, e.g., diced peppers and onions,
- Soup mix, e.g., onion soup,
- Seasoning, e.g., garlic and onion salt,
- Breadcrumbs, and
- Tomato paste.
Wearing gloves, mix all the ingredients except the tomato paste in a large bowl. When the mixture is homogenous, it would be helpful to roll it into balls that can fit through the neck of the jar. The reason for this is that it’s easier to work with, plus it reduces the amount of grease that goes onto the lip of the jar.
Ensure your jars are thoroughly cleaned and dried before filling them with the meatloaf mix. Then, as you place each ball into the jar, press it down to get rid of any spaces. Leave about 1.5 inches of space at the top of the jar. Then, add a heaped tablespoon of tomato paste to the top of the compressed mix, leaving about an inch of “head space.”
It is recommended you wipe the lip of the jar with vinegar to ensure the lids can form a seal on the jar. Doing so will help to remove any grease that will prevent proper sealing.
2. Sterilize The Jar Lids Before Sealing
Even if the lids are clean, it is wise to sterilize them in boiling water before sealing the jars. Once they have boiled for a bit, you can remove the metal lids and place them on the cleaned jar necks. You will need to use clean tongs or a magnet to remove the metal lid from the boiling water. Then, screw on the metal screw band as tightly as possible to seal it.
3. Cook The Meatloaf In A Canner
Prepare your canner as per the instruction manual, and add vinegar to the water if necessary. Doing so will help to keep sediment from forming on the jars should you have hard water. The cooking pressure and time will depend on the weight of the filled jars and your altitude. However, it should take 75 to 90 minutes to cook through and meet safety standards.
Remember, it is essential to check your pressure cooker is in excellent working order before you start preparing your recipe. This way, you can avoid having a whole bunch of jars containing raw meatloaf or dangerous kitchen explosions.
You can watch this video to get an idea of the process for canning meatloaf at home.
How To Store Canned Meatloaf
Once you have gone through the fulfilling task of canning meatloaf, you want to ensure it is correctly stored so that it doesn’t spoil before you eat it. When you have canned your meatloaf, it is a good idea to label the jar with the date you made it so that you can eat older canned meat first. Under the correct storage conditions, canned meat should be safe to eat within a year of making it.
Here are some pointers for storing canned meatloaf safely:
- After the canning process, allow the jars to cool. Provided the lid is vacuum-sealed, you can remove the ring band and clean off food residue without removing the lid. Removing food residue will reduce the risk of airborne molds growing outside the jar.
- Store vacuum-sealed jars without their ring bands. Doing so helps to keep the jars dry and aids in detecting broken vacuum seals. However, if you choose to reapply the bands, ensure they are clean and thoroughly dried first.
- When stacking jars in storage, be careful not to disturb the seals. Additionally, it is better not to stack the jars too high unless you use a solid supportive layer between them.
- Store labeled jars in a cool, dark, and dry place. The ideal temperature for storage is between 50 and 70°F.
- Keep jars away from temperatures exceeding 95°F to reduce spoilage and corrosion of metal lids. For example, it isn’t ideal to store canned meat near a furnace, hot pipes, in direct sunlight, or an uninsulated attic.
- It’s not advisable to freeze canned meat as doing so will change its consistency. However, should accidental freezing occur, the meatloaf should be safe to eat, provided the jar remains sealed. If there’s a risk of canned meatloaf freezing, wrap the jars in newspaper and store them in strong cardboard boxes.
If canned meat shows any signs of spoilage, it is safer to discard it and not eat it.
Whether you’re canning meatloaf as a hobby or preparing for an apocalypse, it is wise to follow the recommendations of the National Center for Home Food Preservation. In addition to choosing a tested recipe, you should ensure your canner is in excellent working order. Additionally, canned meatloaf should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place to prevent it from spoiling prematurely.