how to: canning chicken

First of all, I want to give a big THANK YOU  to my mother for coming over to my house for the day to help me with this post. It’s her hands you will see in most of the pictures so that I could photograph the process. My mom is awesome and I really can’t thank her enough for teaching me about canning when I was younger. I grew up eating out of our family garden and pantry and have an great appreciation for knowing how to can and cook with it. We always lived in places that were not near big grocery stores. They were expensive to shop at and didn’t have a great selection, so canning our foods saved us a lot of money and helped us to eat better.

If you are already familiar with Zaycon Foods and picked up your 40 pound box of chicken in the past few weeks, you might find this post to be something that you find helpful for next time. I typically will freeze half and can the other half, but I had enough chicken in my freezer from last fall, so I canned all 40 pounds of my Zaycon chicken from the February chicken events.

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Be sure you have the right tools for canning. Your jars need to be clean and use new lids every time. Don’t reuse lids. Meat needs to be processed in a pressure canner. We ended up using a different one than the picture shows. You’ll see why in the following photos.
Zaycon FoodsTrim the fat off of all the chicken breast. Zaycon Chicken breasts are huge, as you’ll notice. There is no hormones given to the chickens. They are naturally this big. Typically at grocery stores, they don’t offer you this size and neither do restaurants. We choose to order the bigger sizes. I’ve raised my own chickens and have seen them this size, it is not unnatural.
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I use pint jars for canning chicken. They hold about 1 chicken breast. Just take the fat end and smoosh it down in the jar. Zaycon FoodsZaycon FoodsZaycon FoodsThe chicken doesn’t always fit, so just cut it off.

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You will want to leave a little space at the top and push the chicken into the jar.
Zaycon FoodsMy mom pointed out that you will see space between the chicken and the jar. chicken makes its own juices. This space gives those juices some room.
Zaycon FoodsHeat up your lids to soften up the rubber seals. Zaycon FoodsWhile those warm up clean off the edges of your jars with a damp towel. You don’t want any chicken on the edges to break the seal.
Zaycon FoodsThen measure out 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pint. It you decide to do quarts of chicken, you will need a full teaspoon. Zaycon Foodsjust pour it right on top of your chicken. Zaycon Foodsnext, take your lid and place it on the jar. Tighten the ring just enough so that you just hit some resistance in twisting it on. Don’t go any farther than that.
Zaycon FoodsThis is where I switched out my pressure canner. The one I ended up using can hold two rows of jars and saved me time.

Place your jars on the bottom of the pressure canner. There should be a small lifted plate with holes at the bottom, you don’t want to set it directly on the bottom of the canner. The jars are fine to touch each other. Zaycon foodsput another serration plate between the jars on the bottom and the jars on the top. Zaycon Foodsadd your second row of jars and then fill the pressure canner with water. Zaycon FoodsThe water should be to the bottom of the rings on the top layer of jars. Put the lid on your canner and make sure it is on tight and not leaking.
Zaycon FoodsNow is the boring part…waiting. Since my stove takes forever to heat up this big of a canner, I waited quite a while for the pressure to get up to the 10 lb mark. This is where you want to keep it for a total of 90 minutes once it hits that mark. You do not want to wander off during this process. Stay close and keep an eye on that pressure gauge. Adjust your stove temp and you may need to release pressure by carefully taking that little cap off (shown in picture next to the gauge) and letting some of the steam escape. BE SURE TO USE A POT HOLDER OR SOMETHING TO PROTECT YOUR HAND!! STEAM CAN BURN YOU!) It needs to stay at 10 lbs. of pressure for the full 90 minutes.Zaycon FoodsOnce that 90 minutes is up, take the cap off the steam vent and let it do its thing. It takes a good 5-7 minutes for the pressure to drop down to zero. Do not try to take the lid off until it gets to zero. The water will still most likely be boiling when you do get the lid off.
Zaycon FoodsUse a jar picker upper to take the jars our. I put mine on cooling racks, my mom uses large towels.  Because it took my most of my evening to use the pressure canner and my mom needed to leave, I waited until morning to get photos of the finished canned chicken.

Zaycon FoodsBecause I had 39 jars of chicken to label, I did it the easy way. with a sharpie.
Zaycon FoodsI wipe my jars down with a damp towel in case they are greasy. I make sure the lid is especially clean so that I can write on it.
Zaycon FoodsWhats in it? chicken. What month did you can it? February 2014. I leave it simple and use my older canned chicken first.
Zaycon FoodsFor convenience, I keep the boxes the jars come in. They stack well and are great if you have wire shelving. jars and wire shelving don’t like each other.
Zaycon FoodsI had 4 jars that did not seal. I always prepare for this by having meals that I can use that chicken in right away or I make freezer meals with that chicken.

Chicken is one of the easier foods to can. I like canning my chicken because it makes meal preparation so much faster, There are so many meal options too. We like to make enchiladas, chicken soup, chicken pot pie, tacos, nachos, chili, bbq chicken sandwiches…so many options.

chick chick chicken pot pie

One of our absolute favorite recipes is a chicken pot pie that a friend gave to me about 10 years ago. She got it from a company that sells cooking supplies but has changed a few things and made it amazing. DSC_3418a

This recipe is my go-to recipe whenever I am making a meal for another family. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t asked me for the recipe. The best part is, it makes two pies so you can keep one for yourself and give or freeze the second. It is so much better cooked after being frozen than fresh after you make it.

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First thing I do,  peel, cube and start boiling my potatoes. Then while those are doing their thing, I get on with the rest.

Because it saves time,  I use my canned Zaycon chicken (I will be post how I go about canning it in the next few weeks).  Canning chicken saves space in my freezer and when I  forget to pull it out to thaw early in the day, I can just grab a jar.  The reusable chalkboard labels came from here. They have a huge selection and I use them for more than just canning. I use a chalk pen when writing on these, similar to this.

DSC_3261aDrain the chicken and put it in your mixer. I try not to pulverize the chicken, just break it up a little.
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I put all of my veggies in a bowl and mix together. I shred my carrots because then my kids can’t pick them out and they cook thoroughly. DSC_3283aWhen you can poke through the potatoes with a fork, drain them and add them to your mixed veggies. Just set aside.
DSC_3291aNow on to the BEST part. My oldest always wants to lick the spoon after I make the sauce. This is also no low fat meal…

Saute butter and onion in a pan. 
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when its good and bubbly, I add the flour and spices.

DSC_3310It’s going to get thick and smell amazing!
DSC_3320DSC_3326Chicken broth and whole milk is next.The milk makes pretty designs.

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It’s going to get thick again. and look like country gravy.DSC_3349Mix the veggies and chicken together in a big bowl.
DSC_3354then add the sauce over it and mix together. DSC_3358I cheat and use pre made pie crust, only to save time. DSC_3362DSC_3365cover with another pie crust and…DSC_3374poke out a simple design on your crust. DSC_3378this is where one goes in the freezer and one in the oven. DSC_3385It comes out so pretty and I haven’t had much problem with it bubbling out over the edges, but I alway put a cookie sheet under it in the oven.
DSC_3386Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting into it. You should be able to get at least 8 big slices out of it. DSC_3429a

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And here is the full recipe:chicken recipeprint it out. make it. Maybe it will become your family favorite too.

 

Happy {Bacon}tines Day

I woke up early this morning to decorate the table and give my girls a fun Valentines Day breakfast. On the menu, bacon of course, but who wants boring flat bacon, It is Valentines Day after all….

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BACON HEARTS!!! Easiest “recipe” ever, if you can even call it a recipe.

Cut bacon in half, fold it to look like a heart and bake in the oven. Place bacon on a cookie sheet (preferably one with short sides) place in a cold oven and turn up to 400 degrees. Set timer for 17 minutes. Thats it.DSC_3455 copyFun AND festive. You can’t just have bacon by itself, well, actually thats not true, bacon is delicious and can be eaten at anytime…on a plane, or a train, on a boat or with a goat.

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Last night we made chocolate covered strawberries and ate about half of them. Hid the rest for this morning. Don’t they look pretty with the bacon hearts?

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We also made cheese waffles, a tradition of my husband’s family. Just place slabs of cheese on the waffle mix when you stick it in the waffle maker. I say slabs, because its supposed to be thick and melty when you cook it. It is really tasty. I’d have taken pictures of them, but I forgot.

So there you have it. Bacon hearts. Zaycon has bacon on sale now, I’d love to hear what you ideas you come up with, chocolate covered bacon? candied bacon? bacon cinnamon rolls? bacon wrapped meatloaf? The possibilities are endless…

 

from scratch

A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to get Kelsey Nixon‘s new recipe book. I even got to meet her and make some of her recipes with a small group of awesome people. Sweetest lady ever and, oh my, she has some awesome recipes in this book.

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I love being in the kitchen with my kids. Whether its making toast or a fancy dinner, I let my girls experience food. The textures, flavors, colors and aromas are useful tools. I love that they can experiment and be creative.

My girls and I were flipping through her book and they saw the picture of her “birthday cake” recipe. A birthday doesn’t have to be an excuse to bake a cake, right? So yesterday, when the snow was falling and it was too cold to go anywhere, we baked a cake…from scratch. It was delicious.

Also, I am a photographer at heart, and who doesn’t like a post with pictures?
DSC_2882 aSo here you go…my girls and I baking a cake, in pictures.
DSC_2896We used pink sea salt, because that was all I had in my cupboard and I had to grind it too.
DSC_2911These are my little 5 year olds hands mixing the dry ingredients. This could have ended in a huge mess all over the table, but she gets bored easily and wanted to do the next step.
DSC_2925DSC_2933Mix the wet ingredients together before you add the dry. My 10 year old is pretty good at cracking an egg.
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In the summer of 2012, my oldest daughter and I made enough vanilla to last us a lifetime. Easiest thing ever to make and great use of old root beer bottles. DSC_2950Add your dry ingredients and, easy peasy, you have your cake batter.
DSC_2959this cake is a bit more dense and reminded me of corm bread batter.
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bake. cool. frost. DSC_2979Kelsey has a recipe for frosting too. I don’t recommend adding salt if you are using salted butter…I wouldn’t know from experience or anything…
DSC_2989This frosting is thick and covers pretty well.
DSC_3001I have girls. Girls love pink sprinkles. “We have to have pink sprinkles on our cake,” said the 5 year old. You can find the measuring spoons here.
DSC_3041Pink sprinkles we did have and a lot of them. A. Lot. But it made the cake pretty.
DSC_3088And it was pretty tasty. We gave it a thumbs up. My girls keep picking at it with a fork, so it doesn’t look so appetizing anymore.
DSC_3061I really like the photos in this cookbook. I also can’t wait to try some of the recipes that I can use the 40 lbs of Zaycon chicken I just got this past weekend. I plan to post more recipes.

*I am in no way being compensated for this post or for promoting Kelsey Nixon’s  new cookbook, although she has some fantastic recipes in there. I do recommend getting in the kitchen and making memories with your family.

If you have any ideas or products you think we would like to try, please feel free to email me at arah@zayconfoods.com

And we are rolling

Zaycon’s trucks rolled out this morning, kicking off our spring chicken events (ok, so it’s not spring and there are winter storms happening across the country).

DSC_2539Spokane Valley was one of the first events in the northwest and at 15 degrees outside, we kept warm with hot cocoa brought to us by an awesome customer. We can’t thank our customers enough! When they bring us surprise treats, well, thats just icing on the cake. DSC_2655Just a few faces from the office, Trinette, works in our customer service department and Rick is one of our drivers. We all like to help out, even on our days off.
DSC_2685We hope to see you at the next event! Stay warm America!
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