Midweek Meat Mumbles

The dishwasher was running, Shane & Shane were singing over our Google speaker, the kids were tucked into bed for the might, the chickens were safe in their new coop with their freshly installed automatic coop door, Hubs was working in the garage, and I was cooking ground beef. Seven pounds of it.

Welcome to 9:00 pm on a Tuesday in the prairie.

I’ll admit, I don’t usually burn the nighttime oil cooking copious amounts of meat, but it had to get done so I could heat it up easily enough and pop it in the canner the next day. I was hoping this yield of ground beef combined with veggies and broth would make for a good many quarts of Farmer’s Soup, which will be a hearty one to stock the pantry with.

We live in the upper midwest, and we have the – – luxury, dare I say – – of being able to use the good old outdoors as a freezer for a few months of the year. Should a freezer break down, or the power go out, and it happens to be during the winter, it’s an easy fix to load a cooler and throw it out on the patio to keep food frozen.

This particular day, though, it was more than 90 degrees outside (happy first day of fall!), and with the knowledge I now had a beef order to pick up sooner than I anticipated, I started thinking about freezer space and what would happen to all of that precious meat and produce if our freezer stopped working.

I know when most people think of canning, they think of salsa, pickles, peaches, or green beans. And those are absolutely staples of the canning pantry, don’t get me wrong.

But what if… what if we didn’t have a freezer suddenly? Power outages are not a rare occurrence, and appliances don’t stay in working order forever. These are the reasons I’m ever so thankful I learned how to can.

Not only can I preserve garden produce, or open a jar of fresh summer peaches in the middle of February, but I can save so much more food, so much more reliably.

Soups, stews, chili, sauces, ground beef, breakfast sausage, barbecued pork – – even slices of bacon. You can put any or all of these in jars, pressure can them, and have them shelf stable for 18 months to…. years.

Of course any county extension office is going to tell you to consume your jars of food on a rotational basis and they’ll last “about 12 to 18 months”, but truthfully? Years. They can last years.

YES, there are jars that break their seal and the food will spoil, which is why it’s important to store jars properly and inspect them regularly (and throw out anything in question). Ultimately, however, the food you can today can potentially feed your family a year or more down the road.

Just a week or so ago, I did not have it all together (surprise) with my menu planning or meal prep. I was tired and didn’t have much energy to put forth a big meal so we ate chili dogs using the last jar of chili I canned in the fall of 2017.

Three year old chili.

We didn’t get sick. We didn’t die. In fact, it was delicious, and I might make chili in pint jars just so we can have more chili dogs now and then…

I would like to add, this is not a normal practice. Usually we consume the food I preserve within a year of canning it, but that can of chili held out for awhile, and that night in particular, I was so glad we had it (and that I could trust it to still be good).

So cooking several pounds of hamburger in the evening so I can combine it with veggies and broth and beef up (ha!) my pantry with a delicious soup is so worthwhile.

If this year, 2020, has shown me anything, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and prepare for the unknown. Definitely one of those “easier said than done” scenarios.

As unconventional as it may seem, however, canning meat instead of only freezing it is one of those practical ways we can navigate through the unexpected or the unknown.

Whether it’s a whiteout blizzard keeping us in our homes, or an economic shutdown, not having to wonder where your next meal will come from is an absolute perk of planning ahead.

Especially when that meal is something as tasty as Farmer’s Soup.

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