Thursday, January 27, 2011

12 Chickens, 2 Pots and a Canner

On Tuesday, I was the lucky recipient of a case of frozen rotisserie chickens.  They came in a large plastic bag inside a huge box, waiting to be thawed and put to good use.  Without freezer space, I've had to get creative with any fresh meat we have, and I have learned to can things I would never before have considered.  It has been a wonderful learning experience, and the convenience of canned meat is extraordinary!

Two pots full of chicken
Rather than just canning pieces of chicken, I decided to make Chicken Chow Mein, a family favorite.  I put the 12 whole chickens into 2 huge stockpots and covered them with water.  I let them simmer on the wood cookstove for about 4 hours, while the kids and I did school and I got some sewing done.  After the chickens were thoroughly done and the broth was a beautiful, rich amber color, I took the chickens out of the broth to cool.  As the chicken cooled, Miss Calamity and I strained the broth though a cheesecloth lined colander.  This produces a wonderful, clear broth that is a perfect base for anything from Chow Mein to Chicken soup.  I washed and filled one of the pots about 2/3 full of broth, made a roux with chicken broth and flour (when dealing with these proportions, it is hard to come up with exact measurements - I just kept adding the roux to the broth, while heating it on the stove, until it had a nice, gravy-like consistency).  After the broth was thickened, I added diced chicken (while the broth had been simmering, I had deboned and cut up all of the chicken), green and red peppers, onions and bean sprouts.  Any number of vegetables can be added at this point - water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, etc.  I stirred the chicken and vegetables together until heated through.  While I was deboning the chicken, Master Hand Grenade cut up all of the veggies and Miss Calamity washed and sterilized quart jars.  When the Chow Mein was heated through, I filled my sterilized quart jars, capped them off with sterilized lids and put them in the pressure canner.  I processed them for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

A very large enamel baby bathtub full of chicken!

Straining the broth

Master Hand Grenade chopping Vegetables
Mixing the Roux to thicken the broth

After I was finished with my HUGE pot of Chow Mein, I still had a lot of meat and broth left over.  Since I already had my canning equipment out, I decided to can some cut up chicken meat and some broth with chicken pieces to be turned into chicken noodle soup later.  I filled pint jars with chopped up chicken (to be used for chicken salad, chicken pot pie - any number of things) added salt and filled the jars with boiling water.  The rest of the broth was strained and poured into quart jars with a couple of inches of chicken tossed into the bottom for chicken soup.

All in all, we ended up with 19 quarts of Chicken Chow Mein, 6 pints of canned chicken and 5 quarts of chicken broth with chicken pieces.

I am so grateful to be able to fill our pantry in times of plenty in preparation for times of want.  My God provides.

A good days work


  1. That's wonderful!!!
    I really enjoy your posts Enola, although I don't comment often. :)

  2. I wonder, do you reuse your cheesecloth, or just recycle it?

  3. Chas;

    Thank you so much for your comments! I'm glad to know that you are enjoying the blog.


    Yes, I reuse my cheesecloth. I just wash it, fold it up and use it for whatever. If I am planning on using it to line my cheese mold, I sterilize it by boiling it in hot water for about 20 minutes - that way I don't introduce any unwanted bacteria.


  4. They look beautiful! Do you cook your veggies before putting everything in the pressure canner or do you just add them to the jars raw? I don't like mushy veggies :)

  5. Chicken Chow Mein, what a wonderful & creative choice for a blessing.

  6. I did a very similar thing just before Thangsgiving and again before Christmas. I got 19 lb turkeys for about $4 on sale. I cooked it one day and canned it the next. I made about 12 quarts of broth from the remains of the bird. In each of seven quarts I put about a lb and a half of meat (half white and half dark) and the rest was filled with broth. I got seven quarts of the meat and 4 quarts of broth from each turkey. And it was a lot of fun. I have tried the canned turkey (I couldn't wait). The broth made awesome turkey gravy. I made open face sandwiches one night (there are just two of us) and a turkey stew the second night. I had enough leftover gravy for the mashed potatoes on the third night. It was soooo good!

  7. So, Enola, when's dinner? I can get there by June, I think. :)

    It all looks so delicious. I bet your pantry is looking very full and varied and comforting right about now. That's gotta feel good.

    NoCal Gal

  8. Enola -

    "I filled my sterilized quart jars, capped them off with sterilized lids and put them in the pressure canner. I processed them for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure."

    I am a newby at canning, only having done it 3 times so far. My understanding was that when doing meat like this which requires a long time at high pressure, you do not need to sterilize the jars and lids first. Of course they have to be clean, but the time and temperature do the sterilizing. Am I mistaken?


  9. I too am a newbie at canning. I've made 2 batches of jelly, 3 batches of salsa. What a rewarding experience! Like you, Enola, my daughter's helped me each time and its such a great bonding time. I'm hoping that its something she'll take with her into the future. It would be sad if this domestic art is lost.


  10. Chow mein...I never thought of that! Thanks for the how-to! :)

  11. Enola, I'm giggling right now because I was up until after midnight last night canning chicken! This time was all breast meat - last time was thighs. I got an amazing deal on bulk amounts of both (thighs for $.50/lb and breast for $.79/lb). Since our freezer is also full, it was time to bring out the canner! I love being able to put jars of cooked chicken in my pantry! So far we have about 40 pints. :)
    I'm glad to see you have extra hands to help!

  12. I have always canned my deer meat, but this will be the first year for me in canning our *regular* meat. I'm just really trying to avoid freezer usage. We tend to keep so much in there that if we had an emergency type situation we would be in trouble. :/ Thanks for sharing! ;D--Sara

  13. Carie; I just add the veggies right before I put the chow mein into the canner. If you want crisper vegetables, you could always throw them in while your heating up the chow mein, after you've opened your jar.

    NoCal gal; We'll be here! You are always welcome.

    Audioconsultant; You are right - there is no need to sterilize before you pressure can. I do it out of habit. My grandmother and mother always sterilized their jars, so it has just become part of my process. In reality, you only have to sterilize jars if you are canning jam, jelly or preserves.


  14. I think this is an excellent post =) and it's given me so good ideas...I can't wait to begin my canning experience--LOL. I just bought a pressure canner off of e-Bay and I had to order a weight for it...My bf is planning on downloading all of the instructions for me and of course, between you, Patrice and your readers I'll have so many different ideas. =) I'll let you know how I do--good or bad--LOL. I actually saved your posts on canning bacon and butter as favorites on my computer. I don't want to lose them. Okay, have a good one and thanks for the post.

  15. Great minds think alike! I just spent a marathon day canning chicken and chicken stock, also.

    Next on the list is the 4 lbs of bacon I got on sale.


  16. The experts say not to can anything with flour in it.

  17. I am just curious what everyone thinks the shelf life would be on canned meats if they are properly sealed and stored in a cool, dry place... any thoughts? Thx so much, Sheri

  18. Do you have any recommendations as to which pressure cooker/canner to purchase in order to process vegetables?

    Thank you so much!

    Fellow Homeschooling Mom