Why we spent an evening cutting up 500 lbs. of meat

I've had 72 cans of meat on the counter of my kitchen for the last week and, subsequently, I have been asked a few questions about them. Here's the story. The long version.

A few years ago, I was serving as the Stake Home Storage Specialist, so Steve and I had lots of opportunities to work at the cannery. After canning beef chunks, one of my neighbors, Sandy Maurer, asked me if we had bought any. We hadn't. By the time I had seen the process and all of the hands that touched the meat, I wasn't interested in eating any of it.

She told me she was the same way, and that's why she canned her own. Being the super nice lady she is, Sandy invited me to go with her and even gave me a can of her beef to sample. Steve refused to eat it. For weeks. . . maybe even months. He finally broke down one Sunday and we opened it up for dinner. He told me it was better than any roast I had ever cooked. And it really was.

So, that fall, I went to the Preston Area Cannery with Sandy Maurer to can chicken and beef. It requires cutting up lots of raw meat, waking up way too early in the morning, driving to an obscure warehouse in Preston, being so cold you can barely open a cube of bouillon, and working with chicken and beef broth steaming your face.

And it is absolutely worth the effort. My family loves eating it, and I love that we do it ourselves. . . and I love knowing exactly whose hands have touched my meat. I've been back every year, except for 2008. We were busy and didn't get scheduled early enough. I had to ration my meat from the previous year and won't ever skip again.

The next question everyone asks is what you do with canned beef. Calling it "canned meat" is misleading because most people envision some sort of spammish product. You need to just think of pre-made roast because that's what it is. My favorite recipe to make with it is Beef Stroganoff. All you have to do is open up the can and shred the beef, cook the pasta, make your sauce, and dinner is ready. And it is so good. I can hardly stand eating Beef Stroganoff any other way. Our canned beef was also instrumental in feeding our family through my last pregnancies. Steve could make a substantial Sunday meal consisting of canned beef, canned corn, and potato pearls in about five minutes flat, without any help from me.

Since the Preston Area Cannery is somewhat mysterious, here are a few pictures that show that main steps:

1. Push grocery carts carrying heavy coolers full of meat through gravel parking lot to warehouse. Claim your workspace (Sandy is especially good at this) and fill cans with pre-cut meat, onions, and bouillon.

2. Take cans over to the steamer, where they are filled with water and steamed. Remove cans from steamer and seal the lids. (Again, Sandy is especially good at making sure we don't lose our place in line.)

3. Wait for the cans to be pressure-cooked. It takes a long time. (Two-and-a-half hours for beef.) Then the cans go into the ice bath and finally, you get to clean the gunk off of the outside of them. Fun stuff. Can you believe that almost all of the workers at the cannery are volunteers? I'm thinking that's what Sandy should do when she retires. . .

This is me with some of my Nibley friends (Lisa Thomas, Cheri Carroll, Melanie Nichols, and Brenda Arnell) who went with a separate group. For some reason, Kacie, Gloria, and Sandy weren't super eager to have their pictures taken. Maybe it had something to do with only having a couple of hours of sleep. My kind, kind friends from the Nibley group took the 5:00 am time slot so we didn't have to wake up at 2:30 am to make it up from Ogden on time. They also stayed and helped us clean ALL of our cans. They are some seriously nice friends. Thanks everyone!


Joanie said...

Is Preston the only place that does this? Where do you get the beef? I would totally do this if I had someone to show me the ropes (and others to help me).

Jenny said...

My mom did this last year. Our family friend Jodi is one of the volunteers. (Really short blond hair). Her stew was very good.

Lisa said...

Guess where I'm going Sat. at 4:30 am? Yep you guessed it. This is our first time doing beef, but your review has me sold:)

Jacqui said...

I've been wanting to learn more about this. Sounds like a worth while trip...that's awesome. I just went private with my blog...so send me your e-mail on facebook and I'll add ya again.

Aneesa Bee said...

I'm ALMOST sold. Maybe if I could raise my own cow or find some free beef. . . . I'll work on this one!!

Min D said...

All I can say is I am jealous. Truly, I am.

- Mindy S.