USDA canning procedures for ground meat call for it to be canned in a jar with an unthickened liquid: water, a broth, or tomato juice. You are allowed to form ground meat into patties, or meatballs, but they too must be canned in a liquid.
Some people say they dry can their ground beef with no liquid in the jar, because they don’t like the texture of the meat when it’s canned in a liquid. They also feel that a liquid leeches the flavour out of the meat. You may see statements such as:
DRY CANNING for Ground beef. Retains, the exact texture of browned ground beef.” 1
Some people dry can their meat patties as well, because they say:
When you make hamburger or sausage patties and can them covered with liquid, the burgers will likely crumble as you lift them out of the water.” 2
Be that as it may, there’s no approved procedure for dry canning meat patties, or, crumbled ground beef from any certified expert who has to keep public safety in mind. You can dry-can largish cubes or chunks of meat, but if it’s ground, all the lab testing by certified professionals for safe processing of it was done with liquid in the jar.
HealthyCanning.com was curious if perhaps the dry-canners were right: that you could apply the dry-canning approach for chunks of meat to ground meat. So, we asked the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP.) The NCHFP confirmed in an email to us that they expressly recommend against dry canning ground meat. 3 No proper lab research has come up with a canning process time for ground meat packed dry into jars. The amount and type of liquid in the jars does influence what the correct process time should be. Without the liquid, you are just guessing and no longer following a guaranteed safe, tested method for canning ground meat.
Ground meat, whether it’s beef, pork, lamb, venison, or bear — any ground meat, whether loose or formed into patties, must be packed into a jar with some kind of unthickened liquid (water, broth, or tomato juice) before pressure canning. Disregard anyone who says anything else about canning ground meat: there is risk involved for anyone consuming the end product.
Here are the USDA’s proper guidelines for canning ground meat.
See also: Home-canning ground poultry.