October 19, 2020

How To Can Brats, Kielbasa, & Smoked Sausage

Canned sausages like this are one of my absolute favorite home-canned convenience foods. Go into the pantry, grab a jar, heat 'em and eat 'em. A meal doesn't get any quicker than that. The other day, I found 19-ounce packages of these sausages for $2.95 each at my favorite discount grocery store.


Now, I know some folks assume discount groceries are either outdated, dented, or busted packages and cans. Sometimes, but less often than you think. How's that? As a retired truck driver's wife, let me tell you about something that goes on in the food distribution world behind the consumer scenes.

Food is generally shipped and delivered on shrink-wrapped pallets. That makes it easy to move large quantities with a forklift. However, if the pallet has been damaged in any way: maybe a small dent in one corner of the pallet or one box of cereal got punctured, then the entire pallet is rejected. Often, the entire pallets-worth (even the undamaged stuff) gets thrown into a dumpster. Sometimes, it's donated to food banks or auctioned off to discount grocery stores. (This kind of waste isn't just with food. If you want to hear about the ludicrous waste that goes on in manufacturing, ask a truck driver!)

I have no idea about these packages of brats and Italian sausage, but they were intact, not expired, and had been frozen.

Canning these is super simple. They must be pressure canned, with wide-mouth jars being the easiest to work with. They can be canned whole or sliced into chunks.

We like whole ones on brat buns. For those, I like four per jar.


There are two reasons for this. One is practical. It's a good number for just two people. The second is for safety. Because I'm canning a dense (thick) item, I need plenty of space between the sausages to make sure they are all heated properly in the pressure canner.


Five packages gave me six quarts of sausage with one left over. As an afterthought, I wondered why I didn't get six packages so I could can seven quarts (a full canner load), but at the time it was more about making sure my food dollars stretched to cover everything on my shopping list. As it is, that lone sausage was cooked and diced to add to scrambled eggs.

Another option is to cut the sausages into slices or chunks before adding to the jars.


A quart jar can hold five sausages if they're cut like this. They aren't packed down, just loose to allow for heat circulation during the canning process. I can add these to spaghetti and meatballs, or serve with rice.

Raw meat requires no liquid be added to the jar.


This is because it cooks as it cans and makes its own broth. If I was canning cooked sausages (or any cooked meat), I would add liquid to each jar according to instructions for headspace.


Quart jars of meat require 90 minutes in the pressure canner at whatever pressure is recommended for your altitude. Your canner's manufacturer's directions will give step-by-step details of the process. Generally, steam is vented for ten minutes prior to letting the pressure build up. Processing time starts from whenever the correct pressure is reached.

Canned whole brat sausages.

Canned Italian sausage chunks.

So there we are. What about you? What's your favorite home preserved convenience food?

39 comments:

  1. My pressure canner is on order, it's either that or a second freezer. Yours was a very timely blog post for me, thank you

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  2. Caroline, that's great! I love my pressure canner; it expands the food list of cannable items tremendously. Especially helpful once the freezer is full!

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  3. We have a pressure canner, Leigh, but I have not tried to pressure can anything. Fear? Yes, fear! I don’t know why, but the thought of that thing just scares the doodle out of me. Wish I lived closer to you, so I could watch, and, yes I have watched plenty of YouTube videos...not the same! This winter I am planning on conquering my fears...just not yet! That is a perfect purchase ! Thanks for posting this... making me hopeful that I will just pressure can soon!

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    1. Same! I had a pressure canner for 3 years and never used it because I was so afraid. I finally got the nerve to can carrots last month and it was fine. LOL just read the instructions and go for it. Now I have plans for all kind of veggies and meats.

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  4. This was really educational Leigh!

    I've used pressure cookers all my life. Literally, since I began making family meals at 8 years old. So it's not a fear thing. But for some reason, I've never canned meat unless you count meat incorporated in spaghetti sauce or soups or stews.

    Veggies and fruit in all it's variations like jams and such, yep. Dehydrated foods and dry goods to keep them fresh, yep. But sausages? Never! LOL I've always just frozen those!

    I also was surprised you didn't have to can them in water. (though my dry goods and dehydrated stuff hasn't had water - obviously - I just pictured the jarred sausages I've seen in the store and those are always floating)

    We don't have any thrift stores up here in my area of Northern Michigan that sell food. The closest we get are Amish stores which sell odd brand and close to and expired foods, but only one of the three of those stores we visit that carries any meat charges regular grocery store prices.

    And back to pressure cookers... For those who are afraid of using them, they might want to begin by getting an Instant Pot style cooker and experimenting with cooking with that a bit. Not only are they super handy, they keep your kitchen cooler in the summer, and there are thousands upon thousands of recipes online for making things you'd never expect, like cakes and cheesecake. Once you've mastered using an IP, canning with a water bath canner isn't as intimidating. I will suggest having any canners which have sat unused for a while tested. Here in Michigan most of our colleges have Extension Offices which offer all sorts of services, and testing pressure cookers is one. They will test the functionality and safety, and make recommendations on repairs it might need.

    Just a thought.

    Shelley

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  5. Wyomingheart, well, anything with the potential to "explode" is a bit daunting! But pressure canners do have built-in safety features, so that helps. Like any new equipment, I think it just takes some getting used to. Once you do, you'll find you have a whole new world of canning opening up! I can meats, dried beans, soups, bone broth, etc. Once you know how to gauge the pressure, you'll find it takes less energy to keep it maintained, than a water bath canner. Saves on freezer space too!

    Shelley, that's a very good idea about the instant pot (something I don't have). I remember my grandmother pressure cooking roasts when I was a little girl. Saved so much time! Also a good suggestion about having older canners tested at the local cooperative extension office. Some of them offer classes in canning too.

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  6. Hey, Leigh what’s the texture like after canning? I raw pack breakfast sausage and the texture changes dramatically making it good for casseroles or sauces only.

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  7. Caroline, yes, there is a texture change, but we haven't really minded it because the flavor is still there. I suspect it has to do with the longer cooking time. Are you canning loose, crumble-type sausage, links, or patties? They're smaller than what I've been canning, so I wonder how much of a difference that makes. I'd try those canned breakfast sausages in gravy on top of biscuits!

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    1. No, don’t bother canning patties. The texture is so bad as to be inedible. I raw pack Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage in pints then cook it up with eggs and veggies.

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  8. Interesting post, Leigh. A pressure canner has been on my wish list for quite a while, and perhaps now is the time to look into it seriously. Having canned ready made meals would be very handy, instead of having to remember to get stuff out of the freezer ahead of time, particularly during gardening season. I always want to get right outside in the morning, then forget to think of meals...

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  9. Once again, you have opened my eyes to something I never really considered doing. I'm familiar with the Amish of our area preserving meat by covering it in fat but I never thought about canning it, especially brats like those. We cook a fair amount of gumbo and paella both of which take similar sausages that could be canned. I'll definitely keep my eyes open for a bargain and may give it a go. I have tons of quarts jars we aren't using that I could fill.

    To answer your question, our go to comfort food that we have canned this year has been dried beans. I love being able to just open a jar, heat and serve. We have done a lot of chickpeas too that later became fresh humus after a few seconds in the food processor with other things.

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  10. Leigh! You took my future blog post idea for November. LOL Now I've got to come up with something different. Harrumph! No worries, I've got toms of recipes and goodies to share. I put my Christmas fruitcakes in the refrigerator this already weekend.

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  11. Jo, great minds think alike! I made a Christmas fruitcake about a week ago, but since it's my first I'm not going to blog about that one (no telling how it will turn out!)

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  12. Rosalea, thanks! It is handy to have those ready-made meal fixings. My problem with frozen meals is that like you, I often don't think of it ahead of time. (Plus, I'm running out of freezer space!)

    Ed, I find all canned meats wonderfully convenient, and the sausages are a special treat. Nice you have plenty of empty jars! They're becoming a rare item these days. I can dry beans, but never tried garbanzos. Great idea for fresh humus.

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  13. Thanks for this. I think I still have quart wide mouth jars. I may be doing this.

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  14. Thank you for the pictures. Mine turned out like that so I thought I had done something wrong. Now I know they are still good.

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  15. Ladies calm down! Blogging is not a competition sport. Lol

    I have been using a pressure canner since about 1980 and have never had any issues. I do understand the concern . But I suspect the chances of being abducted by Martians is higher then blowing off the roof with a pressure canner.

    Leigh what a spectacular idea! I have only canned a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Also spaghetti sauce with ground beef included. It never occurred to me to use sausages or any commercially prepared items. Those were frozen.

    As to discount grocery markets. One of my favorite is Grocery Outlet. I have shopped there for years but have found that in the last fourteen years since we first left this area their prices have really gone up. Especially since the Dollar General stores have become more widespread. But not sure if that has got anything to do with it.

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  16. Caroline, if you can still use it as an ingredient, then that makes it useful. I wonder if the texture change has to do with the brand(?) But then, I've only canned the type of sausages I'm showing in this post.

    Kristina, you're welcome! Lucky you to still have wide-mouth quarts! I used the last of mine with this project.

    KH, glad to help. :)

    Goatldi, lol. Actually, Jo just has to keep that post as a draft for awhile and then pop it out in the future. Folks lose track of others' blog posts, or forget, or may appreciate the reminder. Expanding canning to meats and beans is a wonderful way to add to the pantry.

    Grocery Outlet used to be my favorite discount grocery store too! When my family was still growing up, GO enabled us to eat really well with the availability of organic foods at a fraction of the cost. There was a GO when we moved here, but then the prices started to go up so high that they were no longer the most economical place to shop. They closed sometime later. My discount grocery now is a local chain.

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    1. You had the same experience I have had. I think a lot of it had to do with the increased cost of living. And the extreme waste you mentioned. GO used to be a great place to find bargains and goodies for less. Pic and Save came before them but not as much food stuffs. Also a bit more of the broken pallet dented cans mentality.

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  17. I recall they used to say they had the best prices, but I always wonder who that's compared to. Toward the end, Walmart and Aldi always had better prices. So I assumed they were comparing prices to the high end grocery stores. Still, I knew my prices and could usually find a bargain or two until they closed.

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  18. Looks great! I shop at her local grocery outlet on a regular basis and there's tons of good deals there! Sadly I can't be pressure canning because I have a glass top stove. I figure when it dies I will get a gas or electric one so I can do that but time will tell. Great info thanks!

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  19. Nancy, do you mean you water bath can on your glass top stove? I thought that was a no-no too. (But then, I don't know anything about glass top stoves!)

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  20. I bought a box of 80 hamburgers from the local Perkins. Not the best quality meat. They were cheap and I had a day to experiment. I cooked them down a bit on the grill mainly to brown them and then put five to a wide mouth quart jar and added a little water and put in a bullion cube. They turned out pretty decent. We found that broiling the burgers to heat them up for serving gave the best texture. They were quick meals though.

    I also work for a major company in the packaging machine industry. I once installed a machine in a plant that controlled over 36% of the canned tomato market in the USA. They canned everything during a 6 week harvest season in the Fall. Every can was given a code that told what was in the can and it's expiration date and they were stored in massive stacks of "Brights" in huge warehouses Then throughout the year, the brights were labeled with 1 of over 100+ different brand labels and shipped to the grocery chain's warehouse for distribution. I stopped caring about brand and focused on price after that road trip.

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  21. Ron, thanks for joining in. Interesting points. And good idea about canning the burgers! That's one I wouldn't have thought of, but it's good to know. Now, you've got me thinking I should try meatballs!

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  22. That's great Leigh! I canned a bunch of pork for the dogs before we moved and we just finished the last jar yesterday. I habitually can pizza sauce and salsa, those are the two things we use the most!

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  23. I have no idea why I never thought about canning sausages. What a great resource for quick meals. I am not near any discount grocery stores, but will be keeping my eyes open for deals. Thank you, Leigh!

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  24. I learned a lot from this post. Thanks! Phil

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  25. Rain, canning your own pet food is a good idea. So is pizza sauce and salsa!

    Susan, pretty neat, huh? Deals are the best time to stock up!

    Phil, I'm glad! You're welcome!

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  26. I recently pressured canned kielbasa from Costco. Most of the water siphoned out but all jars sealed. Do you think they are ok to keep for long term storage?

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  27. MenloArtist, good question. The safety depends on the vacuum seal. If the vacuum is broken and the seal leaks, you'll get contamination. If the seal remains secure, the food remains properly preserved. The liquid primarily helps with aesthetic appeal, I think. I regularly lose liquid in the canning process for all kinds of foods. The color may change somewhat, but as long as the seal is good, I don't worry about it. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to put those kielbasas on my pantry shelf and use them as long as the seal remained good.

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  28. Twas serendipity coming across your blog Leigh! I just recently bought an American 921 and earlier today bought a bunch of sausages and brats. The idea of beer brats came to mind so I'm curious if I could add some beer (I imagine 'flat' and at room temp) to the jars and can like normal; and if so how much beer. I look forward to your response! - Keith

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  29. Keith, hello and welcome! I have no idea about adding beer to the canning jar, but I'm always up for adventure. You can see in my photos how much liquid the brats made by themselves, so just don't fill the jars too much or you'll lose a lot of liquid. I agree with room temp. Please let me know how they turn out! (A couple of the packages I canned were labeled "beer brats" but I have no idea how they taste in comparison to the others. Everything got kinda mixed up in the jarring and canning process.)

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  30. Question.....
    Do I need to cover with water?

    I am fixing to can several kinds of polish/kielbasa/etc PRECOOKED sausages.
    They may not be eaten for 5 or so years.
    Does the finished product need to be covered with water ? Thanks!

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  31. Sissy, excellent question! If the sausages are already cooked, then yes, you need to add water or broth to the jar. The headspace for canning meat is 1 inch. That will keep them moist and pretty looking. Plus, you'll have all that lovely sausage juice for soup, beans, or gravy!

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  32. I did not see this beforehand. I canned smoked beef sausage and turkey kielbasa today without using additional water. Is this still good? All jars sealed beautifully. I have them cooling now and need advice please.

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  33. Diana, if you followed the proper procedure and pressure canning time (90 minutes) they should be fine.

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  34. Hi! I'm new to canning. I had the bright idea (sarcasm) to can smoked sausage, carrots, onions, potatoes, green bell peppers, celery all together in the jar (this is a dish I've made many times in the crockpot or on the stove). I didn't cook sausage because it was smoked, and I raw packed all of it. I added garlic powder,broth and about 1/4 tsp of salt to each quart. Pressure canned for 90 minutes @ 15lbs. My question is, I'm so paranoid that it's not safe to eat. Any feedback on this?

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  35. Unknown, welcome to the wonderful world of canning! It is indeed, a somewhat scary business at first, especially meat, I think. 90 minutes is the correct time for quarts of meat. The 15lbs pressure assumes you are over 1000 feet in altitude(?) Even so, if your seals are good, your canned creations should be fine. If they look or smell off after you open the jar, discard it. Bring contents to a boil before consuming. It sounds like a delicious idea!

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  36. Unknown, good for you! Pressure canning opens up a whole new realm of pantry possibilities.

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