How to Store Meat for Long-Term

How to Store Meat for Long-Term

Meat is highly perishable and should be used or stored as soon as it is cut. Always keep meat well chilled. Before butchering, decide how the meat is to be stored, which cuts will be frozen or canned, and which will be cured. Be sure you have the space in the freezer or pantry shelves and the materials you will need for the storage method you choose.

FREEZING

No other method of storing meat preserves the fresh texture and flavor as well as freezing. And no other method is as simple. Just trim the meat, wrap it, and freeze it.

Before wrapping, trim off excess fat and any bones that can be removed easily. Fat turns rancid quickly and cuts down on the storage life of the meat. Bones take up too much freezer space.

Do not add salt or other seasonings to meat (including fresh sausage) before freezing. Freeze meats in packages for one meal in the right amount for your family. The smaller the packages, the easier they are to freeze, store, and thaw. Place a double thickness of paper between chops and steaks so they can be separated easily.

The storage life of unsliced, cured meats is two months to three months at 0°F. Ground meats and pork will keep well for four months at that temperature. Veal will keep up to six months. Beef and lamb cuts can be stored up to nine months.

Poultry keeps better when packaged whole, but it is sometimes convenient to cut up chickens and sort the pieces, separating the meaty ones from the bony pieces. If you are freezing several chickens, you may want to package together all thighs, or all drumsticks, or all white meat for special dishes. Package livers separately and use them within three months. Other giblets and poultry meat can be stored up to nine months.

CANNING

Meat and poultry can be canned with excellent results. Canned meats are a delicious convenience. Some meats, notably cured meats, keep longer when canned than when frozen.

Trim off all fat and cut the meat into pieces convenient for use. Remove large bones and cube less tender cuts for use in stews. Form ground meat into one-inch balls or patties, or cook in tomato sauce. Poultry can be cooked and boned or packed raw, with the bone in.

Pack raw meat loosely into clean pint-size or quart-size canning jars or metal cans. Do not add liquid. Cooked meats should be covered with water or cooking liquid. Process pints for seventy-five minutes, quarts for ninety minutes, in a pressure canner at ten pounds of pressure. Follow the manufacturer's directions for sealing cans or jars.

CURING

The curing process not only lengthens the storage life of meats, it also adds its own distinctive flavor. Although hams and bacon are the traditional cuts reserved for curing, any meat can be cured with delicious results. Pork chops and spareribs are good when cured, and the hind leg of mutton or chevon tastes much like ham when cured. Almost any beef cut can be cured for dried beef or corned beef. Cured chickens or turkeys are tasty.

To obtain a good cure, you must provide cool temperatures, the right amount of salt, and the process must be timed carefully.

Cool temperatures . The meat must be kept cold throughout the curing process. If you cannot trust the weather to stay below 40°F, it is possible to cure small batches in the refrigerator in a covered bowl or plastic bag. Sometimes cold storage space can be rented at the local butchering plant.

Salt . Weigh the salt and the meat. The sugar gives the cured meat its flavor, but it is the salt that keeps it from spoiling. Use fine, granulated table salt, not iodized.

Time . Timing is important in curing. If you allow too much time, the meat will be hard and salty; too little, and it will spoil. Meat should remain in the brine or dry-cure one day to three days per pound, depending on the size of the cut and the amount of cure desired. Bacon and Canadian bacon should be cured one day per pound for a mild cure, up to one and a half days per pound for maximum keeping quality. Hams and shoulders should be cured two days to three days per pound. After curing, the meat should hang in a cool place one week to three weeks to age and to let the salt spread evenly through the meat.

There are excellent sugar-cure mixtures on the market, but if you would like to make your own, here is a brine recipe recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture .

6 gallons water

12 pounds salt

3 pounds white or brown sugar

100 pounds of chilled meat

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and bring to a boil. Stir well and chill thoroughly before using. When the meat and brine both are well chilled, pack the meat in a clean stone crock or wooden barrel. Place hams on the bottom, skin-side down, then the shoulders, and finally the bacon slabs, skin-side up.

Pack the meat tightly and weight it down so it will not float in the brine. Pour the cold brine over the meat, being certain all the meat is immersed. Keep the container in a cool (under 40°F.) place for seven days.

At the end of seven days, pour the brine into a pan. Remove the meat and repack it, repositioning the pieces for an even cure. Pour the brine back over the meat, and keep it in a cool place until the curing is complete.

After curing, the meat should hang in a cold place one week to three weeks to age. It can then be smoked or used as is.

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