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.
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:
First they sterilize their jars, lids, and rings-keeping their jars hot.
Pat out their sausage and brown it on both sides.
Place as many pieces of hot sausage as they want for a meal in a hot jar.
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.
After sitting over night the jar looks like this.
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?