Hard Times Come Again No More
January the 23 the 1870

Canning Sausage

Canning Sausage

I love my Ball Blue Book of Preserving-its 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 has ever used a pressure canner.

Granny never canned any kind of meat when I was growing up-she still doesn't-choosing instead to freeze any fresh meat that come 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 doing the slaughtering and the women 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 they used to me more than once over the years I just couldn't fathom how it would really work. Since there was no longer anyone in the family slaughtering hogs, there wasn't a chance for me to see the process either.

Some of you may remember my Mountain Folk interview with Jackie Cole last summer. 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-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-using 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 not spoil 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 pickles and jelly-which I don't-so is the sausage kinda like that?
  • Wouldn't you get sick easier from meat than from jelly or pickles?

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?


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I think that preserving meat this way would be fine. The whole point of pressure canning is to raise the temperature of the can to above the boiling point of 212 degrees F to kill bacteria. With the sausage, jars, and grease being 350 + and sealing out the air it should be fine. Similar to this is when my mom would seal jelly with melted wax. Same concept of heating the contents and then keeping the air out

Up here in Elmira, Ontario, Canada half the town is Mennonite. They live with no electricity, and still go about town in their wagons pulled by horses. I knew a mennonite lady who told me they always cook their sausage and packed them in glass jars. No pressure cooker. But she doesn't turn them upside down because modern lids don't rely on wax or lard to seal. She's never had a problem and never heard of anyone getting sick. Maybe they turned them upside down before the modern lids were available. I'll have to ask her! I've enjoyed everyones stories and I'm going to try this myself!

loved this conversation. Fell into it (like others before me ) looking for info on canning sausage. Since I do live in the desert with its higher temps AND am looking for long term storage, will likely go for pressure canning, but without water, keeping short enough links to fit in a pint jar. Thanks for sharing all this good info!

I learned from my Mother in-law, to can sausage in this old fashioned way. and Ive been canning it this way for years. Its the best sausage youll ever eat. Ive never lost a jar and no ones ever gotten sick from it. It took me several years to get the courage to can it this way, but after I was given a couple jars to try and lived through it, I thought, why not. Im not sure how the method works, but it works. I can everything else there is to can, but this is by far the best.

I can my sausage the same way - with lard over them !!! Best sausage I ever ate - and lawd the best gravy u ever tasted from that sauage grease !!!

My Aunt Florence is 91 and once told me my grandmother cooked sausage, layered the patties in jars, covered with hot grease and cloth and stored it in the cellar. She said it was the best sausage she has ever eaten!

I want to let you know how much I enjoyed the reading of the different posts as well as the delightful music.Both brought back so many fond memories of growing up in Virgilina Va.during the sixties.My mom alone raised my brother and myself as well as took care of my blind grandmother by housecleaning and farming for the family who owned our home.My brother and I would love to get off the bus and run down the road to the big house to smell the sausage being cooked and canned in the basement.They'd yell upstairs for us to grab a cold biscuit or piece of loaf bread to put our sausage on. The hot sausage smelled and tasted so good as an afternoon treat.Just seeing my mom's face at the pleasure of making us happy is such a wonderful memory. I had the best mom in the world and if we could all go back to this simple way of living it would be all worthwhile.I am canning this year for the first time since I was 16 years old and it has been such a calming and joyous experience to use the old recipes that were used a hundred years ago or more by my family.

I'm canning some pork sausage right now and was googling to see how others do it. I came across your delightful blog post on this subject. My mother always canned sausage, chicken and beef without a pressure cooker. In fact, I had no idea that this is not considered to be a safe method! I've cold packed the jars and am processing them in a hot water bath for 2 hours just like my mom did many years ago! We love having this tasty and convenient sausage for camping and for quick delicious Sunday dinners. BTW I've lingered reading more on your blog because of the beautiful folk music! I'll be sure to return many times ....

You can safely dry cann sausage in jars using pressure canner. Just brown the patties and drop them in a hot jar and process for 70 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts! Why not be safe. I think adding liquid washes out flavor, so I would suggest not adding liquid, both are tested safe ways to can.

I recall my father-in-law tell me that when he was growing up in northern Iowa, his family would butcher a couple of pigs each fall, smoke the hams and store them in the oats bin, and for the sausage links they made, they stored them in several 10 gallon crocks, after they put a few layers of links in they topped it off with hot melted lard and continued until they reached the top of each crock. When they wanted several links for a meal, they just reached into the soft lard and pull out a few link and then just smoothed the lard over and put the wood lid back on the crock. I have been canning for several years now, both water bath and pressure canning, I also make my own sausage for the house but when I brought about 20 lbs of assorted types to a bbq/potluck at work, I have gotten a steady list of customers that can't seems to get enough of my sausage links. As for the canning, I live just south of Fresno, Calif. in the heart of the San Joaquin valley, so getting hooked up with several hundred lbs of tomatoes, cukes, carrots sweet cork and green beans for next to nothing is nice..I have to can it all, my freezer is always full of pork and sausage. Sorry for ramblin on, but just had to pass on how our family did it back during the depression. Keep Canning. Mort

the American plains Indians did the same thing , they dry smoked beef, venison and crumbled it up and poured heavy fat over it and let it harden , they called it PEMICAN , it was a trail food !!

Back in the day fishing boats on the east coast went fishing for months at a time and they to fat from scrap pork and melted it in a big pot and cook sliced beef in it once the fat was hot then the meat settled to the bottom the gallons of fat would harden on top keep out air and bacteria workers would load the pot on the ship and everyday they heat the pot eat the meat and the fat harden again and again for months that's how they eat on the sea look it up they still do it in some New England states thanks

we are canning sausages right now the old fashioned way--i was raised doing it this way and still continue--cooking the patties untill done--pour the hot lard over them --cover them completely with lard--turn the jar upside down for a good seal--i do keep my jars in hot boiling water untill ready to fill--seal with hot lids--i am 66 years old and have never had any complications from eating it--in fact we do have the blue book and we can everything we eat--

i am so glad i found this site

Not only did my aunt do the canning this way she also left whatever sausage was leftover from daily breakfast in the sideboard drawer for all day snacks every day and no one got sick.

I found this site looking to canning pepperoni. Not too many good results when searching that.
I have canned ground meat both cold packed and hot (boiling and rinsing until I get out as much fat as possible) and do prefer the latter.
I wondered if I cut pepperoni into diced chunks, boiled and rinsed like I did the ground meat, then jar it with hot water to 1/2 inch headspace and pressure can it.
Anyone tried this?

I have been researching traditional methods of food preservation for several years now (and doing it) and this is my take:

First: As several have mentioned, this method works (without pressure canning), when you are working in a clean and sanitized kitchen, working quickly during the canning part, and working with hot, sterilized jars and HOT fat and food. The French call this confit, but storing meat (cured or not) in fat over the winter has been done for centuries in many cultures.

Second: What I have not seen anyone mention is that these items are then stored in a cold storage area. This may seem like a small detail not worth mentioning, but speaking as someone living in an area (southwest desert) where summer low temperatures do not go below 90 F and highs average about 110 F, it matters a lot. Cold temperatures help reduce rancidity of the fat, help maintain the seal on the jars, and keep bacteria growth low. If anyone has experience doing this method of preservation in hotter areas and their typical length of storage time, I would love to hear it because everything I have read is in areas where it is very cold in winter and summer does not even begin until June (we reach the 70s by March).

I have experimented with pork chops stored in their cooking fat (after straining out watery juices) and they kept well for a few months in the fridge. The key was they were completely covered by the fat which blocked air and bacteria from getting to the meat. I plan to try canning sausage in broth soon (which is how I found this blog), but I will be using a pressure canner because it does not stay cool here, I want to avoid rancid fat, and I prefer to err on the side of caution when dealing with meat.

Nice conversation; I look forward to exploring more of the blog.

My insight to canning.My family has done this for generations,both sides.Realize they were experts at processing foods for winter storage.They usually only bought salt,sugar,coffee,flour,baking soda, ect at the store.In this process the jars,lids,rings are completely sterile and the sausage is cooked done to an outside crust with grease reaching 300+ degrees.I sterilize jars in the oven at 300 degrees.Only one or two jars are done at a time.Sausage still cooking quickly into the sterile jar,usually five patties to a pint then boiling grease halfway up,lid on immediately.Hot grease forces out any air and turning them upside down sterilizes again top inside of jar.If the lid seals overnite they're done.I can everything and have half my little town addicted to my PawPees sauce.I trust my processing way more than I do hunts and starkist since I've never gotten half the country sick from salmonella.Keep your work spaces clean,your canning vessels hot and sterile and always check the seals on the lids after processing and before consumption.If a lab analysis of my food against a factory farm's production foods were to go head to head,I'd win on every aspect.West Tennessee.

Ok...I will ad my two cents worth to this on-going conversation, which I am enjoying immensely by the way.

I am going on 70 years old and live in NW GA near calhoun and spent as much time as possible with my mother's aunt/uncle on the farm about 25 miles from where we lived. Every holliday, every summer and EVERY other chance I could get there. I loved that place...!

I was fortunate as a child to see and participate in this method of making/canning the best sausage I have tasted in my entire life.

It was cooked in a big deep iron skillet on a WOOD STOVE. My aunt would start off with some of the fresh rendered lard (so there was plenty to quickly cook the sausage and then enough to pour over it in the canning jars), roll the sausage into balls and cook it, place it in the hot jars from the oven, pour the fat over it and seal the jars.

To the best of my memory she filled the jars about 2/3 full...then turned them upside down for cooling and later storage.

It was considered a delicacy...I don't remember how long it was stored but I believe it was all gone before hog killing time a year later.

On cold winter mornings before daylight (dec-jan) when my uncle and I were around the barn yard milking the two cows, feeding the pigs, chickens, and mules, we could smell that sausage cooking and know we were in for a treat.

I miss those times...and the taste of that sausage. It was perfect every time...we never got sick from eating it or from the pork (hams, midlins, and shoulders) buried in salt in the salt box on the screened in back porch. Another relative smoked some of their sausage (in skinny cloth bags) and it hung in the smokehouse until it was all eaten.

Those memories and taste are precious to me until this day...

What is the longest know self life of a jar of canned sausage? I know it depends on storage conditions. Thanks

I was raised on water bath canning. Mother passed away and My brother and I still can tomato juice and pears, etc. I love to can. Best tasting juice. People need to learn how to can again. Everything old is new again.

Shirley-I've never seen canning done over an open fire-but I know that is indeed how they did it in the old days!

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My husband's family always canned their sausage and cooked it outside over a fire for 3 hrs. No where in your comments is this listed. Can you put it into glass jars and cook it over an open fire for 3 hrs?
We went to a cannery this year and canned 26 qt cans, but they use pressure steamers.

We would cook our sauage in patties, pack them in crocks and cover with lard then place the crocks in the cellar. In jars we did the inverted method. The only time we did water bath was when we canned in tin cans.

Tipper, I've been canning ground meat and chicken this summer. It comes out just fine, but of course I used my pressure canner. I've been toying with the idea of canning some patty sausage. I will probably do that with the broth not the grease. Reason being that the grease gets a little old tasting if it's in the can too long. It won't hurt you but it smells really bad. My Mother and Mawmaw would can sausage just the way the Pressleys do. I think the reason we never got sick from it was that we always put it back in the frying pan and got it really hot. That may have killed anything lurking in the jars. It tasted really good. My mawmaw would put sage in her's even though people say that it will taste too strong when it comes out of the jar. Also, she and my mom started pressure canning the sausage after they bought the canner from a door to door salesman. It was a great surprise when he came knocking on the door. You never knew what he would be selling from one time to the next. We may have fed him some of that good sausage with a biscuit from our little kitchen.

I have never used a pressure cooker, but I have canned sausage like this several times and have never had any problems. Essentially, if you get the grease hot enough to kill any bacteria (boiling point or higher) then you are creating a sterile environment within the jar, so the food can't spoil. BUT....airborne bacteria CAN be a problem, so I would avoid breathing into the jars as you pack them, and avoid working in a dusty environment. The meat and grease could be sterile but dust in the air can bring in bacteria, so to counteract this I like to wear a glove and shake the hot jar in an attempt to heat up the air in the jar and all surfaces of the jar to the same temperature as the grease, further sterilizing it.

Looks like they were making confit. Meat cooked and stored in its own fat. All the rage now with fancy cooks.

Well I home can chicken, and fish, and venison chunks. I raw pack wide mouth jars, and use no additional liquid except on the venison chunks. I use beef bouillon and a couple of tablespoons of cream of mushroom soup in each quart of venison. So far plenty of happy diners and no sick ones. I also occasionally process a deer by boning and coarse grinding almost all of it. I mix that with boston butt pork roast bought on sale and then cut up and ground. I then blend on a 2 parts venison, one part pork ratio which I mix with breakfast sausage spices (minus sage). I brown this mixture in batches until just no longer pink and hot pack in pint or quart jars for canning. All my canning is done with a pressure canner and ball blue book canning guide for reference. The deer/pork canned sausage is excellent for sausage gravy and biscuits. Also for hamburger helper, chili, spagetti meat sauce, and ground meat stroganoff. I know others I trust who can meatballs. Only recently did I get the idea to pressure can bratwurst size link sausages. I see no reason it can't be done safely. JMHO

My brother in law just ask me if I ever heard of canning sausage. I of course came to the computer. I started thinking we eat meat canned in sealed cans and thet sell those little sausages in jars. Would that not be the same thing as long as your jars seal good?

I have watched my Mom can sausage the way you described. I have eaten sausage stright from the can on a bisquit. A lot of my friends say the had canned sauage this way. In fact I have been thinking of canning some for my on use.

I tried canning sauage on 3/31/10 I hope its like my daddy uses to do it.I will give results in couple weeks

well i tried to can some sauage today.i boiled jars,fried sauage well,installed into qt.jars dipped lids into boiling water and sealed tightly.turned over so greese will drip to bottom.daddy always done it this way.he died in 1970,i eat some of his canned sauage in 1972.tasted like just been cooked.3/30/10 by BIG JOHN..TOCCOA GEORGIA

Here in New England when we slaughter a pig we take the cuts of meat, brown them in a skillet and put them in a plastic bucket, cover a layer with lard, put the next layer, cover with more lard and more layers until we get to the top. We put the bucket in the cellar and use the meat within six months. It sounds similar to your method of doing sausages in the canning jar. We smoke our sausages until they are dry (like pepperoni, but not spicy). Our Scots Irish (1715) ancestors settled up and down the Appalachian mountain chain, so I see lots of similarities...

I found out a few years back that my family used to can sausage that way. I thought it sounded kind of crazy, too. They said my Aunt Goldie's canned sausage was the best. They shaped their sausage into balls, though.

I have never done this but I would definitely do what the latest edition of the blue book said to do...they do research on it and ensure best practices. I'd rather not die from my own canning either.

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