I am not a canning expert. These are simply my thoughts and NOT recommendations. Please familiarize yourself with the USDA canning guidelines. I generally use the UGA or Clemson recommendations.
Making sure that whatever we can is safe is of utmost importance. There are “rebel canning groups” online and sometimes I see recommendations for recipes that I would never use. My understanding is that if recipes have not been tested by “canning experts” (such as USDA or the universities that perform and report on recipe testing), they are not necessarily unsafe but until they can be proven to be safe, they should be considered questionable and, to me, that’s enough for me not to want to use them.
While I am not a canning rebel, and I feel like I don’t take chances with canning safety, I will occasionally venture a bit from the “rules” . . though I am NOT recommending that you do so.
There are things I have learned through the years of canning – things that are probably all in the USDA canning guidelines if I had read and memorized them in the beginning of my canning journey. When I look at a recipe that I may want to can, the first things that jump out at me are the following:
- Oil – Penn State Extension Article about using oils.
- Flour – Because flour is mostly used in recipes as a thickener, it can reduce the ability of heat to penetrate the foods and therefore, I do not use flour or flour like products in canning. I will use clear gel for making pie fillings to be canned.
- Rice – I do not use rice in canned recipes. It also can make a thick mass and reduce heat penetration but it is not very appetizing as a thick, gummy glob in the food.
Today I am going to can chicken jambalaya “base”. I am not sharing the recipe here because it is not an approved recipe but I will give a bit of insight into changes that I make. I call this a “base” because it isn’t a jar I can open, heat and serve. It still needs a little work but for the most part, it cuts way down on the time needed to get a delicious meal ready to serve and since I love jambalaya, we always have this on our shelves.
- The recipe calls for bacon and bacon fat. It calls for sauteeing veggies in the bacon fat. If I were making a pot of jambalaya on the stove, I would use plenty of bacon and bacon fat but for the canning recipe, I will add the chopped veggies to a bit of the broth and simmer that on the stove for 10 or 15 minutes. The veggies are going to be tender after being in the canner for 75 or 90 minutes (pints or quarts). There’s no need to add oil.
- My recipe calls for two packets of au jus gravy mix. I leave that out completely.
Otherwise, my recipe has the following:
- Chicken (boiled with celery, bell pepper, and onions)
- Andouille Sausage (which I brown and drain on paper towels first to remove as much of the oil as possible)
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned tomato sauce
- Seasonings (cajun seasonings, garlic powder, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and chili powder)
I suppose the sausage would be questionable in a USDA approved recipe but that’s about as much rule breaking as I do when canning.
Once I boil the chicken with the veggies, I strain out the chicken and veggies and allow the broth to sit in the fridge so the fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off. Once the chicken cools, I shred it.
Then I boil the broth again, add the chicken and veggies back to the broth, add the tomatoes and seasoning and simmer that, ladle it into jars and pressure can it (75 minutes for pints/90 minutes for quarts). That seems pretty straightforward to me.
Once I’m ready to serve jambalaya for dinner, these the steps I take:
- Open the jar. Strain the liquid into a measuring cup.
- For our meal, I would cook 1 cup of raw rice so I would need about 1-1/2 cups of the liquid. Normally I cook rice on top of the stove with equal parts water and rice but since there are tomato products in this recipe, I add a little more liquid. If there isn’t that much liquid in the jar, add water to reach the desired amount of liquid.
- I also will add a tablespoon of au jus mix or I will simply add a bit of Better than Bouillon Beef Flavor or a beef bouillon cube. I will also add a bay leaf.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the rice AND the remaining contents of the jar.
- Cover and simmer til the rice is done.
At this point, if you wanted to, you could saute onions, celery and bell pepper in oil and add that to the cooking pot. I keep freeze dried onions, bell pepper and celery on hand so just when the cooking liquid is almost all cooked out, I’ll add a bit of those veggies to the pot. It makes it look more like fresh cooked jambalaya and can’t help but improve the flavor.
I will make enough of this to fill four quarts so I will be able to can this in the Nesco Electric Pressure Canner, and also have enough left over for our dinner.