Appalachia Appalachian Food

Old Timey Canned Sausage

Way back in 2009 I wrote a post about the old timey method of canning sausage. It is still a process I ponder on now and then…apparently a whole lot of other people do too. The post ranks #7 in the most viewed posts for the Blind Pig & the Acorn.

Canning Sausage

I love my “Ball Blue Book of Preserving.” It is full of canning and preserving advice on everything from blackberries to clams. This is what the book has to say about canning Pork Sausage:

“Shape ground pork in to patties or 3 to 4 inch links. Cook until lightly browned. Drain. Pack hot sausage into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Ladle hot broth over sausage, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 1 hour and 15 minutes, quarts 1 hour and 30 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner.”

Pretty simple instructions for anyone who is familiar with using a pressure canner.

Granny never canned any kind of meat when I was growing up. She always froze any fresh meat that came her and Pap’s way. Not long after I married The Deer Hunter I began hearing stories of the entire Pressley family coming together during hog slaughtering time.

The men done the slaughtering and the women were inside the house preparing the meat for preservation. From the beginning I was interested in the sausage part. I’d ask “You mean you canned sausage? But how?”

Even though they detailed the process more than once over the years I just couldn’t fathom how it could really work. Since there was no longer anyone in the family slaughtering hogs, there wasn’t a chance for me to see the process first hand either.

Some of you may remember my Mountain Folk interview with Jackie Cole. Her family still slaughters hogs each fall and as she told me the details of handling the meat, I realized her method of canning sausage was the same one the Pressleys used. As I questioned her closer she finally gave me a jar of canned sausage, told me to take it home, cook it, and see for myself.

When I opened the jar a few weeks later I enjoyed the best sausage I had ever eaten. It was so much better than frozen and almost as good as fresh. Since then I’ve been given jars by other folks who can their sausage in the same manner and its all been good. Not just good but outstanding, however there is just one problem…they don’t pressure cook it.

This is the method they use:

Sterilizing jars in the oven

First they sterilize their jars, lids, and rings-keeping their jars hot.

Canning sausage fry first

Pat out their sausage and brown it on both sides.

How to can sausage

Place as many pieces of hot sausage as they want for a meal in a hot jar.

Adding grease to canned sausage

Pour 1 to 2 inches of the hot sausage grease/fat into the jar. Attach the lid and ring tightly and turn the jar upside down.

Old fashioned canned sausage

After sitting over night the jar looks like this.

Old timey sausage

They store the sausage upside down until they’re ready to open a jar to eat. Placing the pieces in a pan they fry them for a few minutes to warm through and use the excess grease to make gravy just like you would with fresh sausage.

I’ve been studying this method for almost a year. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • How could the sausage keep like this. How does it keep from spoiling since it wasn’t canned in a pressure cooker?
  • Does the grease protect it somehow?
  • I’ve read some toxins are odorless and tasteless. Is the sausage spoiled and they just don’t know it?
  • In the last year I’ve found dozens of folks from western NC who can their sausage like this. Even the lady I buy sausage from said she did, and her mother did as well. Could it be folks who are used to eating it are used to eating it-you know like when you travel to another country you may get an upset stomach because of the different strains of bacteria that are present in the food and water?
  • Have all the folks who use this method just been lucky for the years they’ve been canning it like this?
  • If I followed all the directions of my canning book I’d water bath my jelly but I don’t. So is the sausage kinda like that?

As you can see I’ve mostly went around in circles on this one. One thing I do know folks who were taught this method by their elders and have used it for the last 40 years aren’t about to change their minds on the subject. And although, I’m not advising anyone to use the method, I sure won’t be turning down any jars that are waved under my nose.

What I want to know is what do you think? Did your parents or grandparents can sausage like this? Do you think all the folks that use the method are just lucky dogs and their day of dying from botulism is coming? If you’d always used this method with no adverse consequences would you change cause the Ball canning book told you too?

Tipper

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35 Comments

  • Reply
    janice pouncey
    February 26, 2020 at 11:53 pm

    My friend Jessie taught me to can sausage this way, about fourty yrs. ago. She use to bring me a sausage biscuit every morning. The sausage was exceptional. One day she gave me a can of sausage. I gagged. It looked nasty. She said that is her canned sausage. She got a hog killed and told the people at the slaughter house what spices to put in it. We rolled the sausage out. Fried them up and put in the hot jars adding the grease. I put up many a jar. It is the best. When my friends knew I was canning sausage, I had several jars missing. haha. Everyone loves it.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 26, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Mom always canned sausage this way, the only problem was when she made gravy and biscuits off the lard and browned the meat after the flour was browning and placed the gravy and crumbled sausage on her biscuits you had to wear a hard hat to keep your tongue from slapping your brains out. The sausage was also wonderful when crumbled and mixed with scrambled eggs. Luckily my wife can also make comparable biscuits and gravy.

  • Reply
    Kathy Chester
    February 26, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    That is the way my Grandma Beck canned sausage. We lived on a farm and raised our on hogs. My daddy built a room onto the back of my grandparents carport for my Grandma to have a canning room and a walk-in cooler. They would process out the meat and she would do all of her canning in that room. Daddy had shelves built sized just right for pint, quart, half gallon and gallon jars. Grandma had an old tv (with rabbit ears wrapped with aluminum foil) in the “can house” to watch her “stories” while she was “puttin up”. She also had a couch so she could lay down and take her afternoon nap if needed. So many memories…

  • Reply
    Richard Giadone
    November 20, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    We grew up butchering hogs. We had fresh sausage for a week. After that we had sausage 2 ways. We would hang it to air dry for a few days, then lightly press for 2 days in the wine press, then place in a croc and cover with lard. The other way was as described in the article, but our was always linked Italian. We still make both sausages today as well as sliced seasoned eggplant stored in a croc of lard or olive oil. Freezers were not handy, pickling changed the taste, so storing in lard was the best option.

  • Reply
    Richard Largent
    November 13, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    I didn’t realize this was an Appalachian thing. This is how my granny taught me to can sausage and how we still do it today. I’m not sure why it works only that it does and I’m not going to change. Good article…

    • Reply
      Tank
      September 7, 2020 at 12:29 am

      This is how my family canned pork sausage…. Thats what i grew up eating.. It was very good….

  • Reply
    Susan R Landis
    August 10, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    One of my aunts canned sausage in the upside down way. She kept the jars in a little closet off her kitchen. Hers had a good amount of the lard sealing in the sausage. It was good! A special event when she would open a jar to cook for breakfast.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 10, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Tipper,
    Just told my husband about your writing about canning sausage. I knew his Mother canned sausage as I ate it when we went camping together. We were usually never at their home for breakfast…However, we camped and fished a lot and she took her canned sausage to the lake…easy peasy!
    He just said…He would love to have a jar of her sausage today…and I would too. He said he has seen fifty jars or more lined up on the counter after coming in from school after his Mother spent a peaceful day of canning…however, once in a while one of the girls would stay home and help her…She turned hers upsidedown and the grease hardened around the sausage like the picture you show…Her Mother and Grandmother put up sausage this way…no one ever got sick. My Mother in law had eight kids and lots of company and no one ever got sick from her canned sausage…
    My Mother didn’t like sausage that much, but she told me when I told her of my husbands Mother canning sausage that her Mother and Grandmother canned it the same way…Mom loved pickled pigs feet…ewwww, used to make me sick watching her pick them out of the jar…sheweee, still makes me sick to think of it…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Magdalene Mwangi
    July 1, 2017 at 8:56 am

    wow, nice one, thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Gene Ferguson
    February 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I remember my mother preserving sausage this way. when we butchered in the fall she would make the paddies and cook them down as she called it, put them in quart jars with some grease, and set upside down. I was a teenager then and 70 now, i remember it was good all winter.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    September 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Maggie-thank you for the comments! Hope you have a great day!!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    maggie b
    September 1, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I’m thinking I’ve read about pioneers that used to use lard poured over meat to preserve it in crocks. I’ll have to google that and see if I’m remembering correctly

  • Reply
    maggie b
    September 1, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I think the lard preserves the meat in an airless environment. The cooking kills pathogens and the hot jars & lids kill bacteria in the jars. The congealed grease makes the environment airless so I’m thinking this is the key. Killed pathogens + airless environment which seals from the heat vacuum like jelly turned upside down to help the lids seal.

  • Reply
    Krystee Ervin
    August 11, 2014 at 10:54 am

    my grandparents canned sausage, but they also did something I’ve never seen anywhere else. They would slaughter a hog when corn came in. My granny had us be real careful when we shucked corn and we would pop the corn out and try to leave the husk in tack. She would make sausage patties and we would stack them inside the shuck and wrap the shuck back around them. We tied them up with a string. She would render lard and dip the shuck in the lard. Then the lard coated husk would be hung in the smoke house. We ate that sausage first — and it was wonderful. I would really be interested in knowing if anyone else has seen this method.

  • Reply
    Janice Stout
    August 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    My family used to slaughter hogs and we would travel to the cannery in the next county to have our sausage canned. It wasn’t layered in patties. It would come out in crumbles that you could fry up. Made great gravy for biscuits. We even just ate it scrambled with eggs. My former mother-in-law still cans meat. She cans hamburger (again, not in patties, but just packed ground beef) and she cans chunks of beef which could be used for stew or over noodles. It looks like cubed roast beef.

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Have you found a good sausage recipe yet ?
    My mom canned it this way too ,and I’m still alive and well .

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Have you found a good sausage recipe yet ?
    My mom canned it this way too ,and I’m still alive and well .

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Have you found a good sausage recipe yet ?
    My mom canned it this way too ,and I’m still alive and well .

  • Reply
    Dewayne
    August 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    I remember getting canned sausage from time to time. Not sure where daddy got it from but always remember it being so good. Now after reading this you’ve done gone and flung a cravin on me.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    August 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    My grandmother canned her sausage. I was very small when she gave up housekeeping. Thus I don’t know how she did the sausage. I remember the taste of it, though. She used dried sage from her bush and dried cayenne pepper crushed from her garden. Back then there were no wide mouth jars, so I don’t know how she added the patties to a jar. I do know her sausage was the best I ever tasted.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Tipper,
    I grew up with 5 brothers and we had homeade canned sausage alot for breakfast. Mama and daddy canned lots of things cause that was what we had to eat in cold weather, and we never heard of a pressure canner.
    When mama decided to change our
    breakfast menu’s, we’d have a
    big bowl of Chocolate Gravy and
    bicuits. That stuff would lay with you till dinnertime at
    school…Ken

  • Reply
    Melton Laird
    August 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I think the trick is in turning the jars upside down. Germs are smart enough to know to go in through the top but not smart enough to know to go to the bottom to find the top. I know some people that couldn’t open a jar of sausage canned like that. “Whirr’s the lead?”
    This kinda reminds me of my uncle Wayne. He was a carpenter. When he was framing a house he always “sighted” his lumber. Sighting, to the uninitiated mean holding it up and looking down it from the end to see if it was bowed or warped. If he found something that was too bad, he would throw it to the side.
    “Uncle Wayne, what’s wrong with thisen?”
    “It’s big at the little and bottom at the top.”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    My mother and grandmother put up sausage just like you describe and kept it for months. After a while the spices lose some their punch but otherwise it is good as fresh.
    It all goes back to getting the temperature high enough to kill anything in whatever you are canning. The other day with the pear preserves it was the sugar. Today it is the grease. Whenever you cook with fat it is to increase the cooking temperature. So that sausage is going in the jars at about 375° fahrenheit which will kill anything (botulism is killed at 250°.)
    The reason you want your jars as hot as possible is that they might bust when you pour in that hot grease. Then turning the jar upside down bathes the lid with hot grease and kills anything that might have snuck in while you were filling it. Even if the lid doesn’t seal, the grease does.
    How do you think people preserved meat before freezers and jars? Yes, they salted it, dried it and smoked it, but they also potted it. Potted meat is cooked, stuffed in a pot or crock and covered with hot grease. The French call it confit or pâte.
    I would recommend that you prepare your sausage yourself or know your source. But that applies to everything you eat.
    So don’t call it canned sausage with homemade biscuits and gravy, call it haute cuisine!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    August 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

    My grandparents and parents canned sausage and beef. We salt and/or sugar cured the rest of the hog. My parents switched to freezing after we were able to buy a freezer.
    I think that after the sausage cooled and the grease solidified we turned the jars upright and stored them on shelves in the basement.

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    August 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I’ve heard of fried pork chops packed in a large crock, then covered in melted lard. The crocks were stored in the basement. The cook just had to heat them up.
    I wouldn’t store meat this way. I prefer to can meat using a pressure canner.

    • Reply
      Brenda gratza
      August 17, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      When doing this with the pork sausage does it have to be cooked all the way through or just browned on each side

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    August 9, 2014 at 9:39 am

    My mother canned sausage this way. It was so delicious. Of course back then we didn’t know or worry about cholesterol.

  • Reply
    Mary
    August 9, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I remember your other post, Tipper, and have thought about it many times. I know a lot of folks that do this and they have never been sick from eating it. I would like to try it, sometime. My gr-grandparents cooked the raw patties and layered them in barrels, covering each layer with lard. They kept the barrels down in the cellar and used the patties all winter. Said they started to get a little rancid by the next summer, but no one ever got sick. I think I am starting to be less and less afraid to try some things the old way.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 9, 2014 at 9:08 am

    My folks in Choestoe, my mother, my aunts–both on my “mother’s side and my daddy’s side” canned sausage with adding sausage grease and turning the jar upside down to seal the sausage in the natural, hot grease. We didn’t think anything about the botulism deal, because “we’d always done it this way,” and we were still very much alive and well! But one change from what Tipper listed: We always cooked the sausage until done–not just “browned.” Whether the fully-cooked meat gave it more protection, I don’t know. Of course now I don’t make sausage or can meat. But growing up, we had it that way in the country all the time. And was it every good for breakfast with biscuits, scrambled eggs and gravy!

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    August 9, 2014 at 8:59 am

    My Grandma’s sister always canned sausage like this and also just lean cuts of pork same way. It was delicious and she had never owned a pressure cooker or probably never heard of one. Most of the younger generation have been brain washed to believe if you don’t have a pressure canner you can”t can. I don’t kill hogs at home any more but I do use the open kettle method to can peaches, tomatoes, tomato juice, pears and other things . There would be no use to ask the county extension person because they have also been brain washed.

  • Reply
    Howland
    August 9, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I remember canning meatballs one time, but we used the pressure cooker. The meat was not cooked beforehand.

  • Reply
    dolores
    August 9, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I forgot about this post. I never thought about canning meat. Interesting to say the least, but the jar could come in handy during a storm time when we are without electricity and modern conveniences.

  • Reply
    Carol
    August 9, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I have the same questions. Maybe ask a county extension agent. But, yes, I’ve eaten it done that way, too.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    August 9, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Oh, Tipper! I love this post! We did this with sausage when I was growing up and I have a story to share. I started college at ASU in Boone. I was the only country girl on my hall. Our hall had a full kitchen. My roommate and I decided to cook breakfast one morning. We had the whole hall gathered to see what they smelled. I brought out the canned sausage and it was a hit! They all marveled at something I was so used to. Of course, when you’re that young, you’re a little bit more adventurous than usual. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    August 9, 2014 at 4:52 am

    My grandma always froze her sausage too after slaughter time. She did not can any type of meat.it seems that I even remember her commenting that she was scared of canned meat. She did cold pack cucumbers and so do I and it hadn’t killed me yet!
    I think that my mother-in-law cans sausage. I will have to ask my hubby when he gets up since it is before 5 Am now!

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