Originally Published: November 8, 2012 9:48 p.m.
We can't help but think about food this time of year. Food surrounds us, and family traditions center on elaborate meals with beautifully prepared dishes. Friends and family share recipes and deliver scrumptious trays of holiday goodies. Fortunately, there are opportunities to save big on one particular food item this time of year: turkey. If you are willing to put in a little extra effort, the rewards from purchasing bargain turkeys can last all year long.
To stretch the turkey savings, during the Thanksgiving season our family purchases eight to 10 turkeys to use during the rest of the year. No, we don't have the formal turkey dinner over and over again. There is a way to preserve turkey that allows us to use the meat for regular everyday meals.
We enjoy pressure canning our turkeys. Pressure canning is a fabulous way to seal cooked meat in jars that can be stored and used up to a year later. This method preserves your freezer space and provides cooked turkey to use in fajitas, tacos, spaghetti, potpies, stir-fry, soups, turkey and noodles, and barbecue sandwiches all year long. A pint of meat is more than enough for most recipes.
Larger turkeys have the best ratio of meat to bone. That means you get more meat per pound, the larger the turkey. Plus, the effort and clean-up for canning a smaller turkey is the same as for a larger turkey, so it is better to purchase large turkeys. A 20-pound turkey will produce 10 to 12 pints of meat. It depends on the price of the turkey, but each pint will probably cost around one dollar. Canning turkey is a very economical and delicious way to feed a family all year.
There are numerous resources about canning on the web. There are how-to videos on my website: PracticalSaver.com. You can purchase pressure canners at Ace, True Value, Sears and Walmart. Since canning is common in the Midwest, and many people have moved their canners with them to Arizona, you may discover that a neighbor or family member has one that they don't use anymore.
How to pressure can turkey
Remove the neck and giblet bag and place the entire turkey in the canner with one quart of water. Turn on medium heat. Let the canner steam for 5 minutes; place the weight on the steam spout. Begin timing once the canner reaches 10 pounds of pressure. Process at 10 pounds for 25 minutes (30 minutes for turkeys 20 pounds or more). Now the turkey is cooked. After the turkey cools, pull the meat off the bone and place the meat in pint jars. Ladle broth from the canner in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch between the top of the broth and the rim of the jar. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint jar (1 tsp. for quarts), and clean the rim with paper towel. Place lids and rings on the jars. Place jars back in a clean canner; add two quarts of water. Steam again for 5 minutes before placing the weight on the steam spout. Process at 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. Let the canner cool before removing jars. Test to make sure all of the jars have sealed. (If the lid/flat is not caved in, it didn't seal). Cans that didn't seal can still be used within a couple of days if stored in the refrigerator.
How to freeze turkey
Cook turkey as directed. Cool quickly, and cut into two-inch cubes, or smaller. Place in containers or use moisture/vapor-resistant wrap such as freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Label and date packages. To help keep the meat moist, pour gravy or broth over the meat before freezing. Guidelines suggest that meat not covered with broth can be frozen for one to two months. If covered with broth or gravy, it will keep for up to six months.
I understand that canning may be a little intimidating, but if you give it a try you won't be sorry. We have done it for years and love it. Email me through PracticalSaver.com if you have any questions. Happy turkey season!
Kara Rozendaal, a financial planner, wife and homeschool mother of three has lived in Prescott Valley for 15 years. Learn more about her classes and ways to save money at www.PracticalSaver.com.