Today was my first go at canning rabbit meat, or any meat for that matter. It took me a bit to get it all cut up, but I think I am getting faster at it. We had four rabbits ready to be canned. I decided that I wasn’t going to try to can the rib cage portions. They are just too awkwardly shaped, and since I was doing bone-in raw pack canning, I didn’t want to be picking out all those little rib bones down the road. I did have to cut the forequarters into two pieces each to fill in some of the gaps in the jars, but I managed to get six quart jars filled with meat. I did manage to get the pieces down in further than it shows in the photo, though. It just took some doing.
The bone-in, raw pack method means the only thing I needed to do was shove the raw pieces in the jar, leaving as few air pockets as possible, and one inch of head space (room from the top of the rim of the jar). Then wiped the rims and I put on my boiled rings and lids. No liquid is necessary and in fact the meat makes its own juice while processing. Because it takes 75 minutes to can quarts of rabbit meat, I put 3 quarts of water into the pressure canner. Unlike a water bath canner, you don’t cover the jars. You just need enough water to build up steam and to make sure it doesn’t run dry during the cooking process.
Just like with the green beans, I then sealed it up and turned it on high, waiting for steam to come out the vent. After seven minutes of strong venting, the wiggly thing went in the hole and then I brought the pressure up to 11 pounds (I’m more or less at sea level, so this was the recommended pressure for me).
I was left with the rib cage pieces.
Since I was hanging out in the kitchen anyway making sure the canner didn’t do something it wasn’t supposed to, like go up to 20 pounds of pressure when it needed to hang out at 11 the whole time, I put the ribcages in my tomato blanching basket and dropped it into my big stock pot (I forget what size it is, but I can fit three chickens or one turkey carcass in it. Then I cut up a leek, 3 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, and two cloves of elephant garlic and threw it on top. I covered it with water and added salt, pepper, and dried parsley flakes. I didn’t measure those, but if I had to guess, I’d say 1 TBSP of parsley flakes and at least a TSP of freshly ground sea salt and 1/2 a TSP of freshly ground pepper. I covered it all with water and set it to boil. Once it boiled, I turned the heat down to medium.
Once the rabbit was done being canned, I turned off the heat to the canner and let the pressure come down to 0. Once it had I took out the wiggly thing and released the clamps. I took out the jars and they started pinging. That sound always makes me smile. All had sealed within five minutes. It had cooked beautifully right in the pressure cooker and a lovely juice had formed. Sometimes the juice does not fill up the jar. This is okay. It is still properly canned.
I checked the soup stock for flavor and added approximately another TBSP of parsley flakes. I also added more salt and pepper. I don’t know how much. I adjusted it until I liked the way it tasted. I let it cook a while longer, probably about two hours start to finish. I boiled my lids and rings again. Meanwhile I plucked out my blancher basket from the soup stock and strained my broth into another pan. Then I poured the broth into 6 jars. These jars are between a pint jar and a quart jar, like the kind you would can asparagus in. It filled them up perfectly. They got their 75 minutes in the pressure canner, too, and they too, looked just beautiful and golden when they came out.
So I’ve got 12 more jars on the shelves and the makings of about 9 family meals in the future. Oh, and the meat on those ribcages? I picked it off (and ate some of it, so did the daughter, who was helping at that point), and we ended up with two cups of meat left. She will make two salads out of it for her lunches this week for school. And there is nothing like sucking the meat off the backbone. It was delicious and so succulent. I may try boiling a whole rabbit this way in the future just for the meat to eat that week. Oh, and the chickens were thrilled with the boiled vegetables I’d used in the stock and the bunnies were thrilled with the carrot peels and the bits of celery I deemed too unworthy to go into the pot.
Anyhow, it was another successful venture with the pressure canner and I am really getting confident now. It is time consuming to can meat, but I don’t have to worry about losing this in a power failure if the freezer goes out. If I make the stock first next time, I can do them at the same time since I can fit up to 14 quarts in the canner at a time. I’ll plan better for the next time. I am tired and sore from hanging out in the hard kitchen chairs, but I feel happy and accomplished otherwise. Now off to bed with me. It’s already tomorrow.