Friday, December 3, 2010

Canning cheese and other things....

NOTE:  Canning dairy products is not FDA approved.  These are my own experiments and not recommended for anyone else.  Do not try this in your own kitchen.

As most of you know, I have been talking about canning cheese for quite some time.  Today, as I was planning to can a whole bunch of other things anyway, I thought it would be the perfect time to can cheese as well.

I have never canned hard cheeses before, however, we have quite a supply of commercially canned cheese.  It was much different than I had originally expected.  I thought the canned cheese would be more like a very thick cheese sauce, really only good for spreading on crackers or using in sauces.  Much to my surprise, it wasn't like that at all!  When we opened a can and tipped it upside down, a thick chunk of cheese popped out.  It sliced easily and had absolutely wonderful flavor.  We could easily slice the cheese  or use it in cooking.  I was really impressed.

Of course, I thought if cheese could be canned commercially, I should be able to can it at home.  And so I can.

The method is actually very simple.  You melt the cheese, put it into jars and water bath can for 40 minutes (40 minutes seem to be the magic number for canning dairy products).  I grated (or, rather, Maid Elizabeth grated) the cheese and we put it in a large pot on the wood cookstove to melt.  It melted quite nicely, other than the fact that it separated slightly.  I just scooped up big spoonfuls of cheese and packed them into my prepared jars and then poured the oil evenly over all of the jars.  In retrospect, I would have put the grated cheese in jars and put the jars in boiling water and allowed the cheese to melt in the jars, adding additional cheese as the cheese melted, but the method I used seemed to turn out quite well in spite of me!

Maid Elizabeth grating cheese
Melting the cheese
Cheddar cheese straight out of the canner
The key to canning hard cheeses is canning them in wide mouth jars. I prefer wide mouth half-pints because I think the cheese will just pop out.  I didn't have all wide mouth half-pints, so I used a number of different jars, although they were all wide mouth.

I also cleaned out my freezer and canned a whole bunch of other things, just to see how they turned out.  I browned the Italian Sausage that we use on Pizza and packed it into pint jars.  I sliced cooked Italian Sausage to use in soups, pasta  sauce and casseroles and I  diced Kielbasa Sausage to use in various dishes.  I canned all of the meat in my pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes (I canned pints - If I were canning quarts, I would have canned for 90 minutes).  I didn't add water to any of them, just dry packed them.  When they came out of the canner, there was about a half a jar of liquid in all of the jars.  The girls and I also canned up (in the water bath canner) 14 liters of Grape Juice Concentrate to either drink or make into jelly at a later date.

Slicing Italian Sausage
Dicing Kielbasa
Miss Calamity removing the casings from
the pizza sausage
Browning sausage and melting cheese
Cheese, meat and juice almost ready to go
into the canner!
My goal with all of this canning, was to find ways other than freezing to preserve our food.  If the grid goes down, I want to rest assured that all of our food is safely preserved.  I also love the convenience of not having to thaw meat on the spur of the moment when guests arrive or when we have been away from home and have to throw a meal together quickly. If things can well, I will be changing the way I take care of perishable when we get home from a shopping trip.  No longer will I repackage and freeze all of our meats and cheeses, but I will dice, slice and grate and put into jars!

As we use our canned goods, I will give you reports on our successes and failures, as well as recipes to go along with them.  In the meantime, I will be canning cheese and other things!


  1. OH I so wanna be like you when I grow up! They all look wonderful I now have a HUGE wish list from the store! I think I better get on the ball though and can the 3 turkeys I have in the freezer :)
    I saw this great article in BWH.. ;)

  2. How long have you been canning meat for 75 minutes? I ask because I have always heard that meat must can for 90 minutes. These extra minutes could be a huge difference in safety. I wonder if the time is dependent on altitude. Do you know?

  3. GertyGoose;
    Thank you! I am blushing!!! Would that happen to be an article on canning bacon? I am dying to know!!!

    You are quite right! I always can QUARTS for 90 minutes. This time I only canned PINTS - therefore the 75 minutes!!! Yes, this is absolutely critical!!! I cannot stress enough the importance of looking in your canning book and verifying the canning time and pressure. Thanks for asking.


  4. Actually it was on Cottage industry's... I don't get the mag. I just found out that the library does though and i sat for over a hr looking through this yrs issues and saw that one... I will have to look for the issue on canning bacon!

  5. Can we see pics of the finished canning? I would like to see what the sausages look like. When you use it after canning, do you always cook it for a few more minutes? thanks, ann from KY

  6. Enola... you could always ask Patrice about canning Bacon :) she posted on it a little while ago. You two are my inspiration. I just purchased a 21 1/2quart All American pressure canner/cooker. Have not had the time to try it out but I am looking forward to doing so very soon! Thanks for the posts on canning

  7. Tina;
    Actually, I wrote an article on canning bacon (I taught Patrice) that should be coming out in Backwoods Home in the next month or two! I just thought it might be out early! I'm thrilled for you on your canner purchase. I, too, have an all-american and couldn't do without it! Thanks again.


  8. Well, Enola, I am so happy to learn you're a published freelance writer. I hope your article included some of your photos, as well. You should not have been so humble and modest - let us know when you're having something published, please. Wife, mother, homeschooler, canner, writer, photographer, blogger - you are truly a Renaissance Woman!! You go, girl!

    If you wouldn't mind, could you please tell us which brand and variety of canned cheese you bought and found impressive? I am not a canner anymore, but I am still an eater. I'd like to buy some canned cheese and have it on hand since I love cheese. If you would rather not provide the brand name, I will understand.

    NoCal Gal

  9. NoCal Gal;

    I am blushing again! I think the article should come out in the January/February issue of BWH. It is my second article and I am very excited to see it!

    I don't mind telling you at all about the canned cheese. We bought ours from MRE Depot, however, I was just on there site and couldn't seem to bring up the canned cheese. I did find it on inter-grocer though, and they have some other pretty neat stuff! It is called Bega/Red Feather canned cheese and it is made in Australia. In case you are concerend, it is kosher and used by the Israeli Military! Here is the link:

    We thought it was really good and I like having the cheese on hand in metal cans - just in case!


  10. Thank you for the info about the cheese. I am not Jewish, but I do eat kosher hot dogs (less rat fur, you know!), so I will have no problem eating kosher cheese.

    Yesterday I went to the grocery store and bought things I never thought I'd ever buy - but I'm stocking up on foods with long shelf lives...just in case. With a national unemployment rate of 9.8% (it's really higher, but for the sake of argument, I'll use the govn't's figure) and California's rate of 12.4# unemployment, a growing state and national deficit, and increasing frustration with politicicans - I'm getting ready for chaos in the streets. Your blog has been such a big inspiration and a very pleasant source of information - delivered in a sensible way.

    Don't blush, but you really should try to reach as many people as possible with your common-sense approach to prepping and self-reliance. Don't limit your writing to BWH. Reach out for larger circulation magazines, afterall prepping is becomong mainstream. You have so much you could teach people, and not limited to homemaking skills that have been nearly lost in modern America

    Anonymous Patriot

  11. Intently watching your canning adventure... I'm still trying to get Momma to give the pressure canner a try.

  12. Have I told you lately, Enola, how much I love your blog? It's fun, helpful and gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling that I am learning the ways of the past so I can keep my family fed, warm and happy as things in and of the world worsen. I just learned how to darn socks. Have you done this? I think it's something we should all know how to do.

  13. Enola, thanks for the cheese information. I'll be ordering some of that on Monday. Can't wait to try it.

    NoCal Gal

  14. About 4 yrs ago I decided to ignore my elderly mother's warnings, and try canning meats. I guess what she remembered from her childhood wasn't all that great, and she worried about poisoning.

    Well, I'm glad for once, I didn't listen. I love my home canned meats. I think most meats are greatly improved by a good browning first, except bacon which crisps up wonderfully browned AFTER you open the jar. Pork roast is particularly good when canned. I do most in pints and half pints so my big boys can grab a quick meal for themselves, whenever.
    Hard cheeses can be waxed and hung by a string in a cool place. The flavor gets more potent as it ages, so I only keep it 6 mo. at most. I'd be interested if it gets potent when canned.

  15. Did you make your own cheese before canning it? I LOVE your blog!!


  16. This is amazing. I can't wait to try it myself. I understand your desire to see what you can process by canning. I learned the hard way, what happens when your freezer is no longer a source of freezing temps!! I had to can everything I could to save it. That was just because the freezer died, but we've had ice storms and tornadoes that leave us without electricity too. You just never know. Thanks for the wonderful instructions!!

  17. I usually just lurk on your blog, but I am curious- why do you can cheese vs. waxing it?

  18. I agree with Ann from Kentucky... I want to see pictures of the end result.

    This is so interesting, I never, ever thought about canning cheese. I've never even heard of it.

    Thanks for your very interesting post on these topics.

    Gracie Wray

  19. Enola,
    Great to hear about the writing ! I get BWH, and am looking forward to reading your article.
    That is funny about you teaching Patrice :) as I thought I had a "scoop" for you to find the info you needed. I should have known better , you are 2 peas in a pod.
    Have a great weekend and thanks again for all the great canning info.


  20. Enola,

    Thanks for posting about canning cheese. I am curious about your processing. With butter, you do not WB it at all, and with the cheese, you WB for 40 min. Since both are animal products, why are they not processed in the pressure canner? What is it about these products that makes them safe without pressure canning? The fat, lactic acid, or some other component?

    I have canned butter your way but included using a WB. I am especially interested in trying cheese. Please let us know what you have learned about the safety of canning cheese. Thank, Enola!

  21. I too am wondering if it was home-made cheese that you canned or store bought? I'm not sure it makes a difference but I'm wondering anyway :-) Just found your blog....I'll be digging deeper - it looks great!!

  22. Andrea;
    Thank you! No, I don't know how to darn socks. I completely agree that it is a worthy skill. Maid Elizabeth says that she knows how to darn socks. She holds a sock and says "darn, darn you sock!"

    I bought this cheese - but yes, I have made lots of cheese. That is a story for another blog!

    When I make cheese, I do wax it however, the canned cheese is for longer term storage outside of a cool environment. My waxed cheese, I keep in a cool room. I don't have room to store all of the cheese I would like to have on hand, not to mention, this was store bought cheese, and I have never thought of waxing someone else's cheese!

    Thanks for the "scoop"! It's nice to know that someone is looking out for me!

    I hope your read my "eating humble pie" about canning butter! It got too strong after sitting in a hot kitchen for about 8 months (before, I kept it in a cool room). Cheese is a pretty cool thing to can, because you can see when it molds. Because cheese is made from bacteria, green mold forms on the bad part (usually the section exposed to air) and can be scooped off (in the case of cream cheese) or cut off in the case of harder cheese. Truthfully, I haven't read any FDA approved methods of canning cheese or butter, however, because it is being canned commercially successfully there is an FDA approved method. I don't know the science involved - all I have to offer is antidotal experience.

    Freedom Acres Farm;
    It wasn't homemade cheese - but I'll post on my milk cow envy soon!


  23. thou shalt not wax thy neighbor's cheese! ya think God would let us add that one to the ten? LOL

  24. This may seem a little silly, but why do you want to move from such a lovely location?

    I will be canning cheese tomorrow morning with a couple of friends

  25. OK I am so confused. I keep reading never can cheese or butter because of the fat content. I want to try it so badly but I fear that I well harm my family. Can anyone help ease my fears?

  26. Hi! I was wondering if you have bought shredded cheese and canned it before. There is a store in my area where shredded is just as cheap as block. Does it work the same even though shredded has some powder to keep it form clumping? Thanks!

  27. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work


  28. An easy way to prepare cheese for canning.

    I can cheddar and jack cheese in half pint jars. I buy my cheese in 2 pound plastic wrapped blocks at the local market when they are on sale. The blocks measure about 2-1/4” x 3-1/2” x 6-1/2”. Don’t shred the cheese to melt it and later ladle it into jars. Rather, use a 6 oz. tomato paste can (with both ends removed) as a biscuit cutter to cut the cheese in “slugs” that have the same measurements as the inside of the can. The outside of the can measures about 2-1/8” in diameter x 3-3/8” long.

    To prepare a cheese block for canning remove its plastic wrap and set the block on a sturdy counter or table. Set it on its 2” side. Center the end of the can on the top of the block near one end. Then push the can down into the cheese until the bottom edge of the can hits the table under the block. You may want to place a cushioning object between the top of the can and your hand. This takes a substantial amount of force. Despite my 78 years, I have 235# of former Marine heft to encourage the can to traverse downward thru the cheese block. Some folks may need help from a teenage son or husband to perform this chore (or they could make a cheese press for you to do the same job). Or, you can cut the cheese block into smaller pieces so the can doesn’t have to penetrate so far. In this case, simply stack the pieces into the jar as described later.

    To remove the slug from the can use a short length of 1-1/4” wood closet rod. Put one end of the rod horizontally against your chest and the other end against the cheese in the can. Pull the can towards you and the slug slowly ejects from end away from you. You now have a slug of cheese about 3” long.

    This slug is a bit smaller in diameter than the inside of a half pint jar. Set the slug in a jar. The top end of the slug should be just a wee bit below the rim of the jar. This is OK. If above the rim, trim a bit off the slug until it fits the jar.

    Place a canning lid and band loosely on the top of the jar (this is to exclude water from the jar interior during the following operations). You could also use aluminum foil or a plastic jar lid for the same purpose.

    Repeat this process for as many jars as you want to can or until you run out of cheese.

    Place the jars in a crock pot (slow cooker). My pot will hold 6 half pint jars. Pour water into the pot until the jars are about half submerged. Cover the pot and switch it onto high. In about 1-1/2 hours the cheese will be melted and the temperature of the water in the pot will be about 160 deg. F. The level of the cheese will be about ¾” below the rim of the jar. You could also use a canning kettle in lieu of the crock pot if you want to can process more jars at one time. Just be careful to not get the water hotter than needed to melt the cheese.

    Put the lids and bands back on the jars as you would for canning and proceed with your normal canning process.

    Cheese “scraps” leftover from the slug cutting operation can be used for whatever purpose you desire – including melting and pouring into jars for canning.

    The same process can be used for canning pint jars. In this case, use an 8 oz. tomato sauce can (with both ends removed) as your cheese slug cutting tool.

  29. I would like to know if you have tried this with mozzarella , and if so how did it turn out? I did it and the outside of the cheese turned brown, but the inside was white ( I opened a can to see what happened). Am I doing something wrong? I melted it , then WB for 40 minutes. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for your Blog, I have learn so much from it.

  30. Hi there, just wondering if you have canned raw pie pumpkin cubes with water in a pressure caner and how did it turn out. I am waiting for my pie pumpkins to finish ripening, just wanted your expertise before I can. I have canned bacon and butter from your instruction with great success and am canning Italian sausage and cheese next. Thank you and I praise God for you. I now have my son preparedness canning and stocking up on beans, rice and other necessaries. However, he will need to start bringing his stuff to our house, as his little apartment is to full to hold any more. I am soooo proud of him for this.

  31. so how is the life span on the canned cheese am considering dong a batch but wanted an idea of the storage time frame to expect


  32. Last night I made a big batch of pizza sauce and Pressure canned a few jars. I used this recipe and tripled it. I pressure canned at 11lb for 30 minutes. What are your opinions? I am concerned about the parmesan cheese.


    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon butter
    ½ cup onions, chopped
    ¼ cup celery, chopped
    1 garlic cloves, minced
    1 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
    1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
    2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon sugar
    ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    1 small bay leaves
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  33. Do you use your All American on your cookstove? I have a Pioneer Maid - maybe that's what you have??? And am thinking I need a table to the side to move the pot to after it's done cooking and to the cooler side to just keep it at the right pressure. Thanks . . . I so want to can butter - we do make all of our own but maybe wouldn't be able to at some point. . .

  34. In regards to canning the cheese. Can you use a pressure canner?

  35. I am really curious about those jars that your juice is in. Where did you find them and what kind of lid does it take? We canned a lot of juice this year . We did have some half gallon jars which works pretty good. This is my first time on your site.

    1. Welcome! Those are Weck canning jars (from Germany). You can buy them in the states, just google "Weck Jars". I love the juice jars - they come in both 1 liter and 1/2 liter sizes. They have glass lids and rubber gaskets. When you can you use steel clips (which are unclipped after the jar seals) to hold the lid on. If you want to know more about them, type Weck in my search box - I have written a number of posts about them.


  36. I have the same question about Mozzarella as someone above! Mozzarella is the second most used cheese in our house! Right after sharp cheddar!!! YUM!!!
    I would ALSO like to know the shelf life.

  37. I, too, am curious as to shelf-life of canned cheeses. Also, I noticed something about "mold" growing on cheese. Is this expected on canned cheese while still sealed in jars, or does it happen after opening the sealed jars. Let's say cheddar. So scared of hurting my family with bad product.

  38. first time on your site... i have canned butter in the past as clarified butter from the excess of our milk cow. i have not successfully made any cheese but mozzarella. so i will await your rply to other posts as to the success of canning mozzarella...:-)

  39. was wondering about the shelf life of the cheese as well, and if it molds in the jar sealed? i know you can scoop it off ,cut it off no biggie just wondering and have you ever canned a homemade cheese sauce with milk and cornstarch in the recipe or because of the milk is it a no go and just have to freeze it?