shredded chicken

Do you like the convenience of opening a can of ready-to-use meat and having many possibilities for preparing a meal? Think of a can of tuna. You can do the same thing with canned chicken.

Canned, boneless, skinless chicken can be the basis of many dishes. The soft meat breaks up easily to layer with refried beans, cheese, shredded lettuce and salsa for a tasty taco. Top with sour cream if desired. Roll these same ingredients in a soft tortilla for a delicious fajita. In fact, canned chicken is suitable for many Mexican dishes.

After opening a jar of canned chicken, thicken the broth with a little flour or cornstarch; add some minced onion, celery and/or parsley flakes, and a few cooked or canned peas for a hearty creamed dish to serve over waffles, toast or pancakes. Adding dry milk powder to the broth produces a richer-flavored gravy.

Make chicken and dumplings using homemade or commercial biscuit mix. Just pour a jar of chicken into a pan, adding more broth or water and then some seasonings or vegetables. Top with the dumplings and cook the dumplings as directed on the biscuit mix box.

Flake canned chicken into a noodle casserole; top with buttered breadcrumbs and slivered almonds; bake until golden brown and you have a dish suitable to serve company.

Because the chicken has been cooked so long in the canning process, it is very soft. To use it in cold dishes such as chicken salad, chill the meat first before cutting it into cubes. If you want large cubes of meat in dishes such as chicken pot pie, add the chilled meat just before serving and only cook until heated through.

What are the steps for canning chicken? Freshly dressed poultry should be chilled 6 to 12 hours before canning. (If poultry must be held for longer than a few days, freeze it at temperatures of 0 F or lower until you are ready to can it. Thaw it in a refrigerator.) Rinse the poultry, carefully blot the chicken dry with a paper towel, and remove excess fat. Fat left on the meat will melt and climb the sides of the jar during processing. If the fat comes in contact with the sealing edge of the lid, the jar may not seal. Cut the poultry into suitably sized pieces for canning.

Chicken can be canned with the bone in, or boneless. It can be raw-packed or hot-packed. Hot-packed chicken has a clearer broth, because the liquid can be skimmed before packing it into jars. To hot-pack boneless, skinless chicken, boil, steam or bake the chicken until about 2/3 done. Pack hot chicken into hot jars, leaving 1-1/4-inch of headspace. If desired, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint, or 1 teaspoon salt to each quart. Ladle hot cooking liquid, water or chicken broth over chicken, leaving 1-1/4-inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wiping the edge of the jar with a clean paper towel dipped in vinegar helps to cut the grease from the rim. Adjust two-piece caps. For boneless chicken, process pints for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and quarts for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at 11 pounds pressure in a dial-gauge canner or 10 pounds pressure in a weighted-gauge canner. For chicken with bones, process pints for 65 minutes and quarts 75 minutes. Adjust pressure for higher altitudes.

To raw-pack chicken, fill jars loosely with skinless, raw chicken, leaving 1-1/2 inch of headspace. Do not add liquid. The meat will form its own liquid as it cooks in the canner. There will be a greater amount of space between the liquid and the top of the jar than with a hot pack, but the meat will be safe if correct canning procedures have been used. Process times for raw-packed chicken is the same as for hot-packed chicken, above.

Procedures for canning duck, goose and turkey are the same as for chicken. No canning procedures have been tested for canning ground poultry or poultry sausage.

Traditional chicken soup recipes are not suitable for canning. Noodles, rice, dough balls or thickening agents as in creamed soups interfere with the transfer of heat to control spoilage organisms. Those ingredients need to be added after the chicken and broth have been opened, and just before serving. Cooked chicken with the fat removed may be added to vegetable soup before processing in a pressure canner.

If you have food preservation questions, a home economist is available to answer questions on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., by calling 717-394-6851 or writing Penn State Extension, Lancaster County, 1383 Arcadia Road, Room 140, Lancaster, PA 17601.

The Well Preserved news column is prepared by Penn State Extension.

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