Estimated reading time: 21 minutes
Some of us really love bacon, but unfortunately, it has a shelf-life. A common storage option is to freeze it, and that works fine… for about a month. That’s the tough thing about storing bacon. You can only keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and the longest you can extend that is a month in the freezer.
One alternative that some people like is bacon-flavored TVP or textured vegetable protein. It does add a bacon flavor to food as a topping, and it can last up to 10 years, but it’s not really bacon. It’s soy protein dyed brown and artificially flavored to taste like bacon.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to preserve real bacon that can make it last for 10 years or more—and that’s without refrigeration. In case the grid goes down, or if you are planning to go off-grid on your own, it’s good to know how to preserve food. And for some of us, that includes bacon.
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How to Store Bacon
There’s nothing terribly fancy or complicated about preserving and storing bacon. The best method is a pressure canning technique that is commonly used to can and preserve highly alkaline foods and various meats from beef to chili.
The ideal storage containers are glass mason jars with lids. Nothing needs to be added to the jars other than the bacon, but there’s a trick to successfully getting the bacon into the jars.
What you’ll need to do is layer the slices of raw bacon onto unwaxed parchment paper and then carefully roll it up. We’ll go through the process step by step in addition to other approaches using cooked bacon.
Preserving Cooked Bacon
Cooking the bacon first will make things a bit easier when it’s time to eat. All you’ll need to do is reheat it slightly, but you could also eat it straight from the jar.
Preserved Bacon Bits
You can also cook your bacon and chop it into bits. When you do it this way, you don’t have to roll the bits up in parchment paper; you simply spoon them into the jar and process them.
Bacon bits make everything easier as a topping or garnish, and you could just sprinkle them onto some bread or toast and have an instant bacon sandwich.
Can All Bacon Be Preserved this Way?
Yup. Any style of bacon whether thick or thin, smoked or flavored, raw or cooked, will work with a pressure canner. What’s critical is that you understand and follow the pressure canning directions carefully to get the ideal result. There are YouTube videos that demonstrate some of these steps, but here are the highlights:
Pressure Canning 101
Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Interestingly, water pretty much maintains that temperature as it boils because excess heat is released as steam.
It never goes much higher, even when there’s a loose lid on the pot, and that’s a problem with canning some foods because they require a higher temperature than 212 degrees plus pressure to kill bacteria.
On the other hand, a pressure cooker allows the water temperature to rise as high as 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
This combination of high temperature and pressure effectively kills all microbes that could invade food and pretty much guarantees an effective barrier against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. But there are other important factors including time and the amount of pressure.
Here’s a chart that can give you an idea of the ideal times and pressures for various foods including bacon.
Pressure Canner Processing Chart
|Product||Pounds of Pressure||Style of Pack||Pints||Quarts|
|Bacon||10||Hot or Raw||75 minutes||90 minutes|
|Beef||10||Hot||75 minutes||90 minutes|
|Chicken||10||Hot or Raw||65 minutes||75 minutes|
|Chili Con Carne||10||Hot||75 minutes||Not recommended|
|Pork||10||Hot||75 minutes||90 minutes|
|Rabbit||10||Hot or Raw||75 minutes||90 minutes|
|Venison||10||Hot||75 minutes||90 minutes|
This chart also identifies the “style” of pack. A hot pack means the product is cooked before being placed in the canning jar and is often in a liquid or solution. A raw pack is just that: raw. It’s an uncooked product dropped into the jar.
However, it’s worth noting that the timing does not change for bacon whether it is packed raw or hot, and you never need to add a liquid of any kind.
The Altitude Factor
Another factor affecting pressure canning is altitude. The higher your altitude, the more pressure you need in your pressure canner. Many pressure canners have dial gauges while others have weighted gauges that can be dropped onto a steam vent on the lid to adjust the pressure.
Here’s a chart to adjust for your altitude:
Pressure Canner Altitude Adjustments
|Altitude in Feet||Weighted Gauge||Dial Gauge|
|1 to 1,000||10||11|
|1,001 to 2,000||15||11|
|2.001 to 4,000||15||12|
|4.001 to 6,000||15||13|
|6,001 to 8,000||15||14|
|8,001 to 10,000||15||15|
If you’re not sure about your altitude, many smart phones come with a compass app that also uses GPS to determine your exact altitude.
And now that we’ve got some of that pressure canning homework out of the way, we can get into the recipes.
Recipe #1: Preserving Raw Bacon
This is the most basic approach using sliced bacon right out of the package or sliced off the rind.
- 1 roll of un-waxed parchment paper. (You want un-waxed parchment because the high heat of pressure canning will melt any wax into the bacon.)
- 1-pint or 1-quart wide-mouth canning jars. (You want a wide mouth jar so you can easily pack your bacon.)
- Scissors to trim the parchment paper
- Pressure canner
- Sliced bacon thick or thin
1. Cut a 24-inch length of parchment paper and lay it out on a flat surface.
2. Arrange the strips of bacon along the length of the parchment paper. The slices should barely touch and should not overlap each other.
3. Trim the parchment paper around the perimeter of the bacon slices.
4. If using thin sliced bacon, you’ll want to lay out about 10 to 12 slices.
5. If using thick sliced bacon, you’ll want to use 8 to 10 slices. This has to do with your ability to get all of the bacon into your jar. It may take a bit of experimenting to get the proportions and slice count right.
6. Cut another 24-inch length of parchment paper and then cut it in half along its length.
7. Place this second sheet of parchment paper along the bottom of your bacon slices, leaving the top half of the slices exposed.
8. Carefully fold the parchment paper up and over the bacon where the top of your second sheet of parchment paper meets the exposed bacon slices.
9. Turn the bacon and parchment sideways and gently but tightly roll up the bacon in the parchment paper.
10. Use the scissors to trim off any additional excess parchment paper at the top and bottom of the roll.
11. Gently twist and insert the parchment/bacon roll into your sterilized mason jar. If using larger, 1-quart jars, roll a second parchment sheet of bacon around the first roll.
12. Leave 1 inch of head space in the jar. You may need to press down on your bacon to get that 1-inch.
13. Tighten the lids and place in the pressure canner.
14. Fasten the pressure canner lid and begin to boil the water.
15. When the gauge reads the proper pressure for your altitude, begin timing the process.
16. Always release the pressure and allow it to fully decompress before removing the lid. ALWAYS!
17. Wipe and dry the jars and date the top of the lid with a permanent marker.
18. Store in a cool, dark place.
Recipe #2: Preserving Cooked Bacon
You don’t need to cook your bacon, but pre-cooking before preserving can allow you to fit more bacon in a single jar, and it’s easier to prepare a meal from the preserved bacon if it has already been cooked.
One of the methods for cooking bacon involves placing a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and laying the slices on the parchment in a 400 degree F. oven for 18 to 20 minutes.
The result will be straight and fairly flat strips of crispy bacon.
- 1 roll of un-waxed parchment paper
- 1-pint or 1-quart wide-mouth canning jars
- Scissors to trim the parchment paper
- Pressure canner
- Sliced bacon thick or thin cooked
1. Cook the bacon. You can either fry it, microwave it, or bake in the oven.
2. Once it’s cooked, drain the bacon on paper towels.
You can cook the bacon crisp or leave it a little fatty. A lot depends on how you like your bacon cooked and how you plan to eat it after you take it out of the jar. If you want to reheat your preserved bacon in a frying pan, cook it fatty. If you just want to quickly heat it up or eat it right out of the jar, cook it crisp.
3. Start with a 24-inch sheet of parchment paper and arrange your cooked, crispy slices down side by side.
You can probably add more slices of cooked bacon, so figure 16 to 18 slices of crispy/thin sliced bacon and 12 to 14 slices of crispy/thick sliced bacon.
If you’re cooking your bacon so it’s still fatty, figure on placing the same amount of bacon on the parchment that you would for raw bacon.
4. Repeat the process for raw bacon by covering the bottom half of the bacon with a second sheet of parchment paper cut in half the long way.
5. Fold the parchment paper in half as you would do for raw bacon.
6. Roll the parchment into a compact roll. (Be gentle if you are rolling crispy bacon.)
7. Place the bacon roll in the canning jar leaving 1 inch of headspace.
8. Tighten the lid and place in the pressure canner.
9. Fasten the pressure canner lid and begin to boil the water.
10. When the gauge reads the proper pressure for your altitude, begin timing the process.
11. Always release the pressure and allow it to fully decompress before removing the lid.
12. Wipe and dry the jars and date the top of the lid with a permanent marker.
13. Store in a cool, dark place.
Recipe #3: Preserving Real Bacon Bits
With this approach, you’re skipping the parchment paper and simply canning chopped up bits of cooked bacon.
- 1-pint or 1-quart narrow mouth canning jars
- Pressure canner
- Sliced bacon thick or thin
1. Cook the bacon until crisp. Frying is best for crispy bacon. You don’t want to use partially cooked, fatty bacon for bacon bits. The remaining fat will just congeal in the jar. You want very crispy bacon. You’ll still get some congealed, fat but most of it will be at the bottom of the jar.
2. Drain the bacon on paper towels and pat the tops of the slices dry with more paper towels. Let the crispy bacon cool for a few minutes.
3. Crumble the bacon either with your hands or with a knife on a cutting board. Some people use a food processor.
4. Spoon the bacon bits into a sterilized canning jar. A 1-pint jar is probably best unless you have a lot of bacon to fill a 1-quart jar.
5. Tighten the lid and place in the pressure canner.
6. Fasten the pressure canner lid and begin to boil the water.
7. When the gauge reads the proper pressure for your altitude, begin timing the process.
8. Always release the pressure and allow it to fully decompress before removing the lid.
9. Wipe and dry the jars and date the top of the lid with a permanent marker.
10. Store in a cool, dark place.
Recipe Suggestions for Preserved Bacon
We’re not going to get too complicated with recipes here, but there are some things you should keep in mind when using pressure-canned bacon for meals. This will ensure you’re making the best use of your preserved bacon.
When you remove raw bacon that has been canned and preserved for a long period of time, the bacon strips will have lost some of their structural integrity. You might not be able to peel off a full strip of bacon from the parchment paper. The pressure canning process subjects the bacon to high heat, and the bacon slices may stick to the parchment, causing them to come off in pieces rather than nice, long slices.
There’s no problem with the bacon from a food safety or taste standpoint, but you’ll probably be cooking small pieces of bacon rather than long, full slices. Here’s a link to a YouTube video where a Bacon canning expert demonstrates what this looks like.
Your preserved bacon can be used any way you would traditionally use bacon, whether it’s on some toast or part of a recipe. What’s worth considering is which type of preserved bacon will work best for any specific recipe combination: raw bacon, cooked bacon or bacon bits?
- Raw, preserved bacon can be used any way you like because you’re simply going to be cooking bacon. Its primary benefit is that it still has a high fat or lard content, so you can use the rendered lard as a frying base for other ingredients. Lard also adds flavor to recipes. You could also use the raw, preserved bacon to top a turkey or anything else you need to slow roast in the oven but want to keep moist.
- Crispy, preserved bacon is great for sandwiches whether it’s a BLT, bacon burger, or just as an added topping for grilled cheese. What’s great about those recipes is that adding the bacon while cooking the grilled cheese or burger will reheat it. Then again, fully cooked and crispy bacon can go right out of the jar onto a slice of bread, or you can just give it a quick chew.
- Preserved bacon bits are great when added to soups, mac and cheese, a salad, and as a great flavor accent to baked potatoes, rice, or a savory and salty addition to dips, cheese, and even bacon butter.
- Fatty, preserved bacon is a matter of taste for many people. In Asia, all bacon is served fatty and there are actually designations on hotel menus in Asia that offer an “American style” option for bacon which simply means “crispy.” If you like your bacon fatty, all you need is a way to gently reheat and you’re good to go. You could also add it to recipes to impart some fatty flavor or eat it as is with the knowledge that it has been at least partially cooked.
It’s important to know when the bacon is bad. In spite of your best efforts, some home canning and preservation methods can go wrong. Time is the biggest enemy, and while properly preserved bacon can last for a decade or more, stuff happens. Here’s what to look for after you open any jar of preserved food:
- Does it look right? Is it close to the color you would expect? Is there anything about the texture that looks unexpected? You should be prepared to see some congealed fat, but is the fat a healthy white or at least a bit yellow, or is it showing colors like blue or green which you wouldn’t expect to see?
- Does it smell right? This may be the biggest clue. Does it smell like bacon? Any off odors from mildew to sewage or anything else that makes you shake your head and wince is a pretty good clue that something’s gone wrong. Follow the old prepper’s adage: if in doubt, throw it out.
- Does it taste right? Even if it’s passed the previous tests, if it just doesn’t taste right, you probably want to toss it. Don’t wait for your stomach and intestines to tell you that your taste buds were right.
Storage of Your Canned Bacon
Here’s the good news. You can store your canned bacon in a pantry or anywhere else you store canned foods. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The ideal storage location is the proverbial cool, dark place. Just remember to date your jars so you can track and rotate them as you add to your food storage over time.
Storage After Opening
At this point we’ve come full circle. Once you’ve opened your jar of carefully preserved bacon, we’re back to square one. You can refrigerate leftovers in your jar for up to 2 weeks or freeze it for a month. Bacon bits will last a little longer because they have less fat that can go rancid, but raw bacon out of the jar has the same shelf-life realities of raw bacon before it went into the jar.
Should You Do This?
That depends on a lot of factors. If for some reason you have more bacon than you can give away, it makes sense to take some steps to preserve it for a long time. The most common reason people do this is to store bacon for a time when the grid may be down following a disaster.
Maybe the best reason to try this is to just have the experience and the knowledge of how it’s done. It’s really not that hard to do, and if you do it right, you’ll always have some bacon on hand.
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