Tennessee Mountain Stories

Canned Sausage

I received a wonderful gift a few weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to tell y’uns about it.


Brother George met my husband in the parking lot at church one Sunday morning and handed him a quart jar.  “What’s that? He asked” 

George just grinned and said, “Beth’ll know.”

Well I did!  It was canned sausage and I had not had any since my grandpa Stepp last killed a hog – and I can’t even count how many years that’s been since he’s been home in heaven for the past 30 years.  I well remember Grandma canning the stuff and having it both on the pantry shelf as well as the breakfast table.  But somehow I forgot how good it tastes.  I went back to church and reported to Brother George that it was the best sausage I’d ever eaten – and I was really being honest with him.

Okay, so how many of you have ever imagined putting meat in a jar or ever seen it done? 

It’s kind of a foreign concept to us these days what with the easily available fresh and frozen meats.  But if you’ve ever wintered on salted pork you can appreciate the value of meat that was cooked within a day of coming off the hoof (we’ve really got to talk about hog killin’s sometime, don’t we?).  For those of you who have never eaten much salt pork let me tell you that I don’t care for it.  Old folks that were accustomed to eating it seem very partial to the taste but I find it overwhelming. 


Of course sausage by its very nature has a lot of spice in it, but somehow cooking it when it’s truly fresh seals in a special flavor.  And it’s so well preserved that I don’t think it ages as badly as cured pork which tends to taste a little old after about 6 months.  I didn’t test this canned sausage on aging – it didn’t have a chance to sit on the shelf for very long.

Canned sausage is the simplest thing in the world.  You want to start with good, clean jars – that’s the secret to successfully canning most anything.  Then you roll your fresh sausage into balls – I can’t tell you why you roll it up, seems like it would do just as well if you made patties but I’ve never seen it any other way than in balls.  Cook the sausage balls completely done, saving all of the grease that cooks off.  Dip out the balls into the clean jars leaving a good inch of head room.  Then pour in a good helping of the grease – I don’t want to say fill the jar but the more the better I suppose.  So if you just distribute the grease among all the jars you’re filling that should be a good measure.  Seal ‘em up and turn them upside down to cool.  That’s the neatest part because not only is the jar sealed with the pressure created from the vacuum inside the jar, but also by the congealed grease.

“Potting” meat is an ancient method of preservation – although it’s awfully hard to find any information out about it.  Of course it’s not considered safe by the government officials who tell us what we should and should not do / eat / think but the French are still doing it.  From what I can discover, congealed grease seals out air.  So if you submerge cooked meat beneath a good layer of the stuff it will keep.  I’ve mentioned before that there were many modern conveniences my family embraced and never looked back – self-sealing lids and mason jars were two of those newfangled gadgets that absolutely replaced the old-ways.