How to Can Gravy (You Can’t But Do This Instead)


Growing up in the South has allowed me to enjoy some of the best food in the world daily, and both my parents, I am fortunate to say, were excellent cooks. They instilled in me not only a great love for cooking and canning, and gardening all year round, but they also taught me that food doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, but that all foods can be good if appropriately prepared.

While gravy should not be canned, instead you can process and preserve the ingredients that can be used to make gravy.

Because my parents always made sure they were prepared for the lean times, we never went hungry. This is mainly due to a consistent supply of preserved goods. Unfortunately, all foods cannot be canned safely.

Can You Can Gravy?

Gravy cannot be canned because it is not safe to do so. The National Center for Home Food Processing, a division of the Department of Agriculture, does not recognize canning gravy at home as a safe practice. They only recommend canning broth that can be used in making gravy.

Here is a quote:

Caution: Do not add noodles or other pasta, rice, flour, cream, milk, or other thickening agents to home-canned soups.

National Center for Home Food Processing

This caution holds true for any canned foods, and they are constantly checking home canning procedures for safety factors in order to change and improve canning practices as needed.

Why You Can’t Can Gravy

Foods that are too dense to allow water to flow freely can trap bacteria in pockets which are underprocessed. Using flour or any other thickening agent lowers the acidity level. But, unfortunately, it makes the food too dense, creating a condition under which C. Botulinum can produce the most potent toxin known to man.

This is something that can happen while your canned goods are sitting in your pantry and is not something worth risking! You simply can’t thicken broth before canning, and why you can’t use thickening agents in canned foods.

This is also true with foods like peanut butter or canned mashed pumpkin.

Jelly Grandma's Homemade Gravy
Who wouldn’t want this in their pantry?

The Solution

Do not despair. The good news is that we are able to process and can meat and its broth at home and store them in our pantry so that at any time we choose, we can open them up and use the broth to make fresh, homemade gravy.

Here’s how.

How to Can Stew Meat and Broth at Home

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 lbs Beef (any cut of beef you prefer) trimmed of fat and gristle and cut into 2” chunks
  • Canola or other vegetable oil as needed
  • Salt as needed

Equipment Required:

  • Pressure Canner
  • Canning Jars with Rings and New Lids

Hot Pack Method

  1. Sterilize pint or quart canning jars in the pressure canner without the lid and leave them sitting in boiling water.
  2. Bring another large saucepan filled with water to a boil and keep boiling until needed.
  3. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring that to a boil.
  4. Dry meat with paper towels and add salt to the meat.
  5. In a large skillet, heat oil and brown meat on all sides very quickly, leaving the meat rare on the inside. Once browned, remove the meat to a large bowl.
  6. When all the meat has been browned, add as much water as possible to the skillet, bring water to a boil, and simmer while packing the meat into the sterilized jars. As the water simmers, scrape all the pan drippings from the bottom of the pan and stir it into the water. 
  7. Fill sterilized jars with the meat, leaving at least a 1-1&½” headspace. Do not overfill the jars.
  8. Drop new lids into the small saucepan of boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer.
  9. When all the meat has been packed into the canning jars, divide the hot water containing the pan drippings equally among all the jars.
  10. Then fill the jars with the boiling water from the large saucepan, leaving at least a 1” headspace. Do not overfill the jars.
  11. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, wet cloth.
  12. Affix lids and rings. Tighten rings, but do not overtighten.
  13. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for pressure canning the jars of meat. They should be pressure canned at 10 lbs of pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
  14. When the pressure canning process is finished, remove the jars of meat to a prepared area and allow them to sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours.
  15. At the end of the 24 hours, check the jar lids to ensure they are sealed properly, wash the jars in hot soapy water, dry, label the jars, and store them until needed.

Cold Pack Method

  1. Sterilize pint or quart canning jars in the pressure canner without the lid and leave them sitting in boiling water.
  2. Bring another large saucepan filled with water to a boil and keep boiling until needed.
  3. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring that to a boil.
  4. Dry meat with paper towels and add salt.
  5. Fill sterilized jars with the raw meat, leaving at least a 1-1&½” headspace. Do not overfill the jars.
  6. Drop new lids into boiling water in the small saucepan and reduce heat to a simmer.
  7. When all the meat has been packed into the canning jars, fill the jars with the boiling water from the large saucepan, leaving at least a 1” headspace. Do not overfill the jars.
  8. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, wet cloth.
  9. Affix lids and rings. Tighten rings, but do not overtighten.
  10. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for pressure canning the jars of meat. They should be pressure canned at 10 lbs of pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
  11. When the pressure canning process is finished, remove the jars of meat to a prepared area and allow them to sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours.
  12. At the end of the 24 hours, check the jar lids to ensure they are sealed, wash the jars in hot soapy water, dry, label the jars, and store them until needed.
Canned Beef Stew
Some beef stew I canned using a pressure canner

Here is a video where I show this process being used to can beef stew:

How To Make Gravy Using the Canned Meat and Broth

Ingredients

  • Canned Meat including Broth
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • ⅓ cup Oil or Butter
  • ⅓ cup Flour
  • Water with Better Than Bouillon or additional Broth if needed

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat.
  2. Add cooking oil.
  3. When the pan and oil is hot, add chopped onion.
  4. Saute onion until tender.
  5. Add flour and constantly stir while browning flour for the roux to make gravy.
  6. Add a little salt and pepper.
  7. When flour is a dark brown while constantly stirring, slowly add beef broth and as much water as needed to make 4 cups.
  8. Let gravy “ripen” and add more broth as needed.
  9. Add meat to gravy.
  10. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
  11. Taste and add seasonings as needed.

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes & enjoy!

How to Can Poultry

The recipe for canning stew meat detailed above can be used exactly for canning both chicken and turkey. The only difference is that both chicken and turkey should be canned by following the recipe for the raw packed meat. Do not brown the poultry meat before packing it into the canning jars.

Just to be clear, poultry is canned by processing at 10 lbs of pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts which is the same as for the stew meat.

How to Can Pork, Veal, and Lamb

As with beef and poultry, these recipes can be used exactly for canning pork, veal, and lamb. However, unlike chicken and turkey, meats like pork, veal, and lamb can all be hot packed or cold packed.

How to Can Wild Game

As with beef and poultry, these recipes can be used exactly for canning wild game. However, unlike chicken and turkey, wild game like venison and bear can all be hot packed, or cold packed.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the only difference is that the meat of wild game that is likely to be strong-flavored should be soaked before canning for one hour in a brine solution made up of 1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water.

Meals in a Jar

There are some delicious recipes out there for adding vegetables and seasonings to the meat and broth before it is canned. The ones I have listed in this article are the basics just for the meat and broth, but you can certainly safely add vegetables and seasonings to these basic recipes also.

Just bear in mind that even the recipes for “meals in a jar” require that the gravy be made when you are actually going to eat the food and not before they are canned. It is unsafe to can any food with a thickener added to it.

Does Salt Have To Be Added to Foods When Canning?

Salt does not have to be added to foods when they are canned. The addition of salt does not affect the canning process.

If you want to add salt and forget to add it to the meat when browning, you can just add ½ teaspoon of salt to each pint jar or 1 teaspoon to each quart.

Final Thoughts

Jelly Grandma's Homemade Steak and Gravy
My homemade Southern brown gravy

Back when I was growing up, that good food included gravy almost every day. There was chicken and rice and gravy, pork chops with fried eggs and red-eye gravy, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, and occasionally even fried steak or roast with rice and gravy. And the holiday dinners with turkey and ham usually included rice and mashed potatoes with lots of good turkey gravy!

Oh, and there were always homemade biscuits or cornbread every day, and lots of vegetables, whatever was ready in the garden at the time. But even during the lean times when there was no meat to cook, and those times were plentiful, there was always plenty of “Hoover” gravy and rice to go with the hot biscuits. We didn’t know times were so bad because we always had plenty to eat.

Without a doubt, it would be extremely handy to just go to the pantry, take down a jar of home-canned meat and gravy, heat it up, and serve it right away, but we have to consider safety before convenience. After all, the home-canned meat and broth will allow us to serve a home-cooked, made-from-scratch meal in a very short time since it really doesn’t take that long to make gravy, and the store-bought “gravy” just can’t hold a candle to the homemade version!

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss How to Can Chili | Full Process (By a 50 Year Canner).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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