There is no safe approved process for home canning cured, brined or corned meats
This question from a Canning Coach is the inspiration for today’s Tip. It reads as follows:
“I see from the NCFHP (http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can5_meat.html) that they say ‘We cannot support the canning of cured, brined or corned meats with the procedures for fresh meats.’ Why is this? You would think that meat that has had nitrates added and then was processed by pressure canning for normal meat times would be fine. Why do they not support canning meats such as corned beef?”
The short answer to the question is that no science-based processes are available for home canning of cured, brined or corned meats.
The texture of some cured, brined and corned meats is firmer than that of fresh meats; thus, heat penetration into the cured, brined or corned products might be more difficult. That would mean the process time would need to be longer and using the process for fresh meats would result in potentially unsafe product. Curing can make meat drier than fresh meat or can leave it with a higher salt level, then covering liquid could be absorbed into the flesh and penetration of heat into the meat would be much more difficult. Again, using the process for fresh meats would result in potentially unsafe product. On the other hand, adding salt, nitrite, nitrate and/or antimicrobial agents like nisin makes Clostridium botulinum more susceptible to heat and the required process time for some cured meats could be shorter. If so, using the fresh meat process would result in an overcooked product. Research on each product would be needed to determine a safe canning process.
Dr. Elizabeth Andress at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, said that she cannot find any evidence that the USDA meat canning research on currently accepted methods included cured meats. There was an early mention of corned beef in some reported results in the 1940’s work on meats, but the origins of that were never uncovered in an extensive literature review done in the 1980’s and corned beef was dropped by USDA in later home canning publications. According to Dr. Andress, “Because these products have not been in USDA recommendations for decades, and I do not know how it might affect the processing, I am not going to recommend that I know it is the same.”
Dr. Andress said further “….I don't make up processes for low-acid foods. The USDA legacy work in canning of meats at home is what we have. Even if some work was done in the past, I suspect the variety of cured meat products we have now would have to be taken into consideration and re-considered. I think someone would have to come up with a worst-case scenario for heat penetration in all the possible variations and then do the testing.”
So the bottom line, folks, is that the directions in USDA guide for canning do specify fresh meat for poultry and fresh ground meat. The strips, cubes and chunks directions say "bear, beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison" but do not say ham or corned beef. Clemson Extension recommends that home canners follow directions only as written and only for the specified product.
Canning Tip #51. Canning Meats and Poultry (https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/canning/canning-tips/51canning-meats-poultry.html)
Andress, E.A. and J.H. Harrison, eds. 6th ed. 2014. So Easy to Preserve. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia, Athens.
National Center for Home Food Preservation. How Do I…. Can Meats? Preparing and Canning Poultry, Red Meats and Seafoods (http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can5_meat.html).
Personal communication with Dr. Elizabeth A. Andress, August 2015.