The Home Canning Of Rabbit, Chicken & Small Game

Modest food independence and sensible food storage are goals that many families strive to achieve. Raising a part of your own food is not complicated and a good amount of food can be produced yourself whether you live on a small town lot or in the suburbs.


Chickens and rabbits are usually the first meat animals that a new small holder or garden farmer will acquire. They are small animals, very manageable and are a good fit with backyard gardens. I’m surprised that more people don’t keep them.
Rabbits and chickens require less daily care than 1 or 2 neurotic house cats.

While not all towns or municipalities permit keeping chickens, many people find a way to raise rabbits for food. Fact is your neighbors do not need to know that the rabbits in your basement or garage are for food and are not pets. Rabbits reproduce very quickly and can be harvested with little trouble several times in a year. By canning rabbit you can meet some of your food storage goals.

For the most part, rabbit and chicken recipes are interchangeable except a rabbit has less fat than a chicken. Keep that in mind for recipes when you are cooking a fresh rabbit.
Like chicken, if you cook rabbit too fast the meat can end up tough and stringy. So except for frying, try to use the slower methods when cooking rabbit.

Now when using canned rabbit or chicken you don’t have to worry about tough meat.
That’s because the meat was already pressured cooked and is very tender and moist. Canned chicken (or rabbit) is a tremendous time saver.
I use canned chicken or rabbit in salads, casseroles, barbecue, in white gravies and sauces;  over biscuits and in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken. Chicken pot pie is one of my favorites as is rabbit stew.

You can interchange rabbit and chicken in canning recipes.
So a recipe for chicken soup becomes rabbit soup. White chili made with rabbit or chicken is very good and is easily canned.
Pick any recipe that calls for chicken and use rabbit instead. The variations in recipes are endless and depend only upon the cook’s imagination and ingenuity.

There are a couple of different ways to home can chicken, rabbit or small game. You have a choice between the “hot pack “and the “raw pack methods”, and a choice between “bone in” and “bone out”.

I think best way to can rabbit or chickens is with the hot pack, bone out method. Hot pack – bone out produces a product that is ready to use right off the pantry shelf with liquid for gravy or sauce. It is the method that I most often use when I can whole rabbits or a whole chicken.
When leaving the bone in the favor of the meat is just a bit stronger. I don’t notice it too much with rabbit but it is noticeable with chicken or squirrel.
The difference in flavor is not a bad difference – just different. To me it’s like the difference between mild, white meat chicken and really dark meat chicken. In certain recipes I don’t care for the stronger flavor from the bone in method.

The bone in method is most often used in canning  chicken, rabbit, squirrel and other small game animals where it may be too much trouble to remove the bones.
Canned meat on a pantry shelf is a quick and convenient food. When I’m in a hurry or pressed for time I want to just open the jar, drain it and dump.
I’d rather do the work boning while I’m canning and not later when I’m in hurry and cooking.
No matter which method is chosen, canning meat with the bone in or bone out is a pretty simple affair.

EQUIPMENT
You’ll need a good working pressure canner, canning jars, lids, a jar lifter, hot mitts and the usual kitchen equipment – bowls, knives, towels etc. that you’d need for canning.


I find that wide mouth jars work best when canning bone in meat and I try to can all my meat in wide mouth jars if I have enough available to me. That’s because wide mouth jars are easier to fill, empty and clean.
A wide mouth jar is easier to pack and this is especially important when canning meat with the bone left in it.
When bone in chicken or rabbit is being packed into a canning jar, often you’ll have to fiddle with the pieces and sometimes rearrange them so they fit in jar without wasting too much space in the jar.
No sense packing just one chicken leg into a quart jar, when you actually could have fit a chicken leg, another thigh and two wings in the jar.
Also wide mouth jars are easier to clean after they’ve been used. Sometimes the inside of a jar becomes coated with bits of cooked meat and that makes the jar hard to scrub out even with a bottle brush. With a wide mouth jar it’s much easier to put your hand inside the jar and scrub it clean.
Meat sometimes will pack into a solid, dense mass when canned. With a wide mouth jar removing the meat is much easier.
With a regular mouth jar it can be a real struggle to get the meat out of the jar.

YIELD

The number of jars that any given amount of meat will yield varies with the manner and method by which the jars were packed.
The size of the meat pieces, whether or not a raw or hot pack was used, and or whether or not the bone was left in, will be factors that determine jar yield and outcome.
As a general rule of thumb, allow 2 to 2 ½ pounds of boneless meat per quart. When canning bone in chicken or rabbit, plan to allow for between 2 ½ to 4 ½ pounds of meat per quart. The bone is heavier than you’d think

A WORD ABOUT GIBLETS
If you are processing a large batch of rabbits or chickens and want to can the heart, livers or gizzards, set them aside to be canned in separate jars.
It’s also a good idea to can the livers in their own jar because the liver taste will transfer to the other giblets.
I always save the livers, kidneys, hearts and other bits when processing harvested animals. Even if I don’t eat those parts, my dogs and cats will. To my way of thinking it’s a sin to waste any part of an animal if another animal can use it.

HOT PACK METHOD FOR CANNING CHICKEN or RABBIT WITH BONE IN or BONE OUT

BONE IN

Cut the rabbit, chicken or squirrel into pieces that will fit inside the jar. Trim off any fat.
You probably won’t have any fat on a rabbit but you will on a chicken,duck,raccoon and turkey.
Place the raw pieces into a pan and cover with water or any hot broth of your choosing. The broth can be seasoned. But I would caution you to go easy on the spices and seasoning. Canning will intensify some flavors and not for the good.
Place a lid on the pan and cook the rabbit or chicken over medium heat until the meat just loses its pink color when cut at the meatier parts.

Pack the chicken or rabbit loosely into a hot jar leaving a 1” head space.
Place the big pieces in the center of the jar and fit the smaller pieces around it.

Add salt if you like:
½ Teaspoon for pints
1 Teaspoon for quarts
Cover the rabbit or chicken with boiling hot broth and maintain the 1″ head space in the jar.

Wipe the rim of the jar.
This is especially important with fatty poultry and some fall harvested small game animals.
Grease on the rim of the jar may prevent a seal.

 

With rabbit or squirrel it isn’t usually a problem unless you added some type of fat in the broth.

BONE OUT
Partially cook the animal just like the above. Remove the pieces from the broth until they are cool enough to handle.
Pick the meat from the bones and discard the skin from the chicken (unless you want to can it separately for pets). Pack the hot/warm meat into hot jars, add salt if you like and cover the meat with broth leaving a 1″ head space. Wipe the rim and apply a lid and band.

PROCESSING & TIMING FOR BONE IN MEAT

You will notice that the processing time for bone in meat is less than that of bone out.
This is because it takes less time for the inner core of the jar to reach 240°F when the bones are present. Bone out meat packs solid whereas bone in meat does not.

Whether you use the raw or hot pack method for bone in meat the processing time is the same.
Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) in a pressure canner for altitudes at 1000 ft. sea level or less.
You will need to adjust pressure accordingly for higher altitudes depending on the type of pressure canner system you are using.

The Amount Of Pressure Required To Reach 240° F

Sea Level-2,000 ft. 11 lb.
2,001-4,000 ft. 12 lb.
4,001-6,000 ft. 13 lb.
6,001-8,000 ft. 14 lb.
8,001-10,000 ft. 15 lb.

Processing time for bone in is:
Pints – 65 Minutes
Quarts – 75 Minutes

PROCESSING TIME FOR BONE OUT – Raw or Hot Pack

Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) in a pressure canner for altitudes at 1000ft. sea level or less.

Processing time for bone out is:
Pints – 75 Minutes
Quarts – 90 Minutes
You will need to adjust  pressure accordingly if you live much above 1000 ft. of sea level depending on the type of pressure canner you are using.

When processing time is complete, remove the canner from the heat and allow the pressure to return to normal on its own. Don’t hurry the cooling or you may prevent jars from sealing or have a loss of liquid in the jars.
When pressure has returned to normal inside the canner, remove the jars.

Place the jars on a dry towel or wooden board well out-of-the-way of drafts and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 8 – 12 hrs.
After jars have cooled remove the bands and check the seals. Wipe the outside of the jar if it has become greasy.
Label, date, and store the jars in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.


RAW PACK BONE OUT METHOD

For the most part, the raw pack method of canning chicken or rabbit is identical to the hot pack method except you don’t precook the rabbit or cover it with broth. This method is the preferred method for people who don’t have a source of home-grown chicken or rabbit.

During the fall months, boneless chicken breasts and thighs can often be found for a good price at the grocery store. Basically, the raw pack method is just cold, raw boneless meat packed tightly into a canning jar and then processed. It’s unbelievably simple. Learn to can it yourself and you’ll never have to pay outrageous prices for canned chicken again. Same for beef and pork.


Cut the rabbit or chicken into jar size pieces and pack the pieces into a jar.
Add salt if you like:
½ Teaspoon for pints
1 Teaspoon for quarts

Leave a 1″ head space. Wipe the rim of the jar and apply the lid and band to the jar.
Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) for altitudes at 1000ft. sea level or less. Don’t forget you may need an altitude adjustment – see the chart above.
The processing time for all raw pack meat and poultry is:
75 Minutes For Pints
90 Minutes For Quarts

Remove jars from the canner when processing time is complete.
Place the jars on a dry towel or wooden board well out-of-the-way of drafts and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 8 – 12 hrs.
After jars have cooled remove the bands and check the seals. Wipe the outside jar if it has become greasy. Label the jars and store away from heat and direct sunlight.

  • The advantage to the raw pack method is that it is a time saver.
  • The advantage to the hot pack method is that there is plenty of broth to work with when you open the jar.

Choose whichever method you prefer according to the recipes you will use and your family’s food preferences. 

Katherine Grossman

Katherine M. Grossman was born and raised in the greater Washington, D.C area. For the last 30 years Mrs. Grossman has lived a life of deliberate self-reliance in rural western Pennsylvania. She loves to garden, knit mittens; makes a killer meatloaf and has been known to deliver triplet lambs with her eyes closed. 

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