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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Can Ham

Until our pigs are butchered and in the freezer, I'm still buying pork from the grocery store.  At Easter time, the grocery store was offering a coupon for half off one bone in-ham.  So, armed with said coupon, I set off on a ham-procurement mission!

I wasn't looking for just any ham.  I was looking for a big, BIG ham.  We were having Easter dinner at Hubby's aunt's house so I wasn't making it for the holiday.  Oh no siree, I was getting this ham to can!

WHAT?  How do you can a ham?

Very easily my friends, I'll show you how:

First, buy a giant ham.  I rummaged through all the hams in the store until I found the biggest:  19.34 pounds!  And seeing that it was 50 cents a pound, I got a ham for about 10 bucks.

Second, roast your giant ham.  I roasted this one on a chicken butchering day.  About 4:30 I threw in some previously scrubbed, pierced and foil wrapped potatoes to bake along side it.

We ate four meals from this ham before I set to canning it.

(See, we'd been eating on it!)

Slice up the ham.  I used an electric knife to speed the process.

And then dice it.  My pieces are 1/2 to an inch square.  You don't want them too fine or the ham may be too dense in the jar to can safely.

Add a bit of oil or lard to the bottom of a kettle and saute your ham until it is heated through and there are some browned bits on the bottom of the kettle.

While you're waiting, make sure your jars are ready.  They don't have to be hot, but they do have to be clean!

Add the heated diced ham to the jars.  Use a funnel!  We don't want ham bits or any grease to be on the rim of the jar.

After the jars are full and the kettle is empty, fill it with some hot water and bring it to a boil, scraping all those delicious browned ham bits from the bottom.  We're making a ham broth to can the meat in.

Once the broth is boiling, add it to the jars.  Check your canning book for headspace recommendations.

Carefully wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel.  Why?  If there is any grease on the rim, the lid may not seal.  And we've gone through too much work at this point to let it all go on a failed seal!

Add a previously simmered ring and lid.

Turn the ring down snugly.  Don't wrench it, just snugly.  Place the jars in your pressure canner.  You MUST pressure can meat.

Please follow the directions for YOUR pressure canner, I'm just sharing how mine works.

Add a couple inches of water to the bottom of the canner.  Place the lid on the top and screw down.

Leaving your petcock open (the needle-looking thing on the right side of my pressure canner), to force out all the air in the canner and replace it with steam.

When you see steam coming from the petcock, it's ready to close and begin the pressurizing process.  (petcock now closed)

Let me just interject that pressure canning is very easy.  It's the same basic process for every food item you can.  But the difference is that you simply CAN NOT leave the canner, particularly during the pressurizing process.  You do not want the pressure to go too high and that requires a watchful eye.  (What a poem!!)

I have used this to my advantage.
Hubby:  "Can you help me stack bales in the barn?"
Mama:  (with book in hand and feet up, parked in a chair in front of my stove) "Sorry honey, I'm canning!"

Again, check your canning book and elevation above sea level for your specific canning pressure.

My pressure is 10 pounds.  Because I have a dial-gauge canner, I like my pressure to sit at 11 pounds, just to be sure.

Once you've hit your pressure, you begin timing the canning.  I was doing pints of ham which, according to my canning book, should be canned for 75 minutes.  If I was doing quarts, 90 minutes.

If, for some reason, your pressure were to drop below the recommended level you must bring it back to that level and then begin timing again.  See why I stick around, even if it's for 75 minutes?? 

(I did make use of that time.  I was pitting cherries for my next round of canning.)

So, what do you do with pints of ham??

These nine pints will make wonderful additions to baked beans, scalloped potatoes, omelets, egg bakes, soups, salads, etc. 

If I count the 4 meals we had before I canned, we'll have THIRTEEN meals from one $10 ham.

(And that's not even counting the bean soup I made.  Two gallons worth that we shared with friends.  Ingredients:  meaty, ham bone, great northern beans, potatoes, water...that's it!!)


  1. 13 meals from 20 lb of ham - that's wonderful! I have to admit, I'm definitely one of those who is trepidatious about pressure canning, mainly because I don't have a pressure canner and haven't seen it done since I was about 12...so I appreciate your tutorial, which makes it look very doable.

  2. I just got a Presto 1951 7AV Pressure Cooker-Canner, and I can't wait to use it. I have to buy a new gasket, and a new vent plug. I need to go to the commissioners office to get my dial gauge checked. I am thrilled to use it. It is about the same size as yours, just not as tall. Mine is a 16 qt. I will can everything I can get my hands on. LOL

  3. Thank you for this. Ham is on sale right now at our Commissary, and I was looking at it very closely.

  4. Thank you for the information. I have been canning meats for years now and it has been awesome for our family. I do have a question for you though. I just bought a new "old" pressure canner. It has an ejector that looks similar to yours. I was wondering if you could look at a photo of it and let me know if there is anything special I need to do to use it or possible change out parts to update it. I have been using an All American that will do seven quarts at a time. This one will do twenty quarts at a time. I can't wait to get it fired up. Again thank you for what you are doing here. James

    1. I would not update until I had it tested. In our state, we can take them to the county extension office and they will test them to make sure they hold pressure and the gauge is accurate. If it doesn't work, then update parts. My canner is over 60 years old and still all original hardware!!

    2. Is this fresh ham or cured ham?
      I have canned fresh ham cubed in soup, beans, or potatoes, but never ham alone.

    3. Cured ham straight from the grocery store freezer. There are really great deals around Christmas and Easter and that's when I stock up. Even this year with our own ham in the freezer, I will still buy a couple of hams to can up.

    4. I've been searching for a ham canning recipe and yours is the only one I have found.
      Other sites have said the ham turns grey. Is this true? It has almost dissuaded me from canning it. There is a sale on hams right now. Ends up being 70 cents a #.

    5. To keep it from turning grey, put a little bit of salt peter in the gravy that you're topping the jars with.

  5. I have a newer model pressure cooker, it is set at 15#. I can't find how long to cook ham. I am doing pints. Would you know? Thank you for your info. It is very helpful.

  6. Thanks for a great how-to. We haven't canned meats in 40 years but I am planning on canning the meat from a ham or two this Christmas season. Ham and navy beans; we love them enough to eat them every month or more so with all the other uses of canned ham, I can easily find use for a few dozen pints.

  7. Thanks for the great photos. We here in Germany also cook meat. But we also cook instant soups ein.Das is the difference between our countries. This has always been done here so - the finished bean soup comes in the glass and is boiled for 120 minutes. The shelf life is rated at 12 months.

  8. what is salt peter and where do you buy it and is it safe to eat. I thought it was for making gunpowder and explosive things.


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