Deer hunting season is here, and my husband and I were able to get two deer on opening day! We save a lot of money by doing all of the processing ourselves, which is a lot of work with one deer, let alone two. I typically cut steaks from the tenderloins and back straps, and the neck and flank meat gets cubed for canning. The leg and rump meat get cut into steaks or cubes (for canning or canned stew), and sometimes we’ll do a bunch of ground meat as well. This year I plan to do more canning than grinding, so we will have regular canned venison and venison stew in the pantry for the year.
Canning venison is not difficult, but it can be time consuming because of the long processing time in the canner compared to what you may be used to with a boiling water canner (used for tomatoes, fruits, jams, etc.). However, the end result is well worth your time. Venison is naturally lean and when it’s canned, any fat in the meat will rise to the top and harden for easy removal when you open the jar. Canned venison is also VERY tender and tastes like roast beef without any of the fat and gristle that you come across in ground meat. Somehow the pressure canning softens gristle so it isn’t noticeable in the end product.
The shelf life of canned venison is VERY long. In fact, as long as the jar remains sealed you can probably keep it indefinitely. The texture of the meat may not be as good after several years, but it won’t be spoiled. Frozen meat, on the other hand, needs to be used within 6-12 months for the best quality or you may end up with freezer-burned meat (with parts of it being freeze-dried) — yuck. If you get more venison than you can use in a year, plan to either share some with friends and family or do some canning.
What you will need for canning venison:
Fresh venison, cut into bite-sized cubes
Pressure Canner (well worth the money spent) — check Amazon.com for good prices and free shipping
Jars (pints or quarts), lids and rings (don’t use ones that are chipped or rusted)
Jar grabber tool for removing the hot jars from the canner
Instructions for canning meat (the Ball brand “Blue Book” is a great one)
Instructions for your pressure canner (read and follow!)
I will briefly explain the pressure canning procedure for venison, but be sure you have instructions on hand for your own pressure canner as well as up-to-date safety information on canning meat. I do not cook the meat before canning it because I feel it’s not necessary. I “raw pack” the cubed meat into the jars, add a little bit of salt, put the lids/rings on, and place them in the pressure canner. My canner is tall enough that I can stack pint jars for a larger batch. After the canner is loaded, I put the lid on and let steam vent for 10 minutes before putting the vent cap on. Let the pressure build until it reaches 10-11 pounds pressure, and maintain that pressure for 1 hour 15 minutes for pints (1 hour 30 min. for quarts). When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure come back to zero on its own (don’t mess with the canner to speed things up — leave it alone!). Carefully remove the hot jars from the canner and place them an inch or two apart on a towel or paper lined countertop.
Sometimes a little of the jar contents will ooze out the tops while cooling, but just let them be and they should cool and seal on their own. Don’t retighten the rings after taking the jars out of the canner. After the jars have cooled, check to make sure they’re sealed (press the middle of the lid — it should not move). Then label your jars with the contents and date. I know you know what’s in them right now, but if they sit in your pantry for a long time, you may forget. Or anyone else who happens to go to your pantry for a jar may not be able to guess what’s in there or how old it is. Always, always, always label it!
How do you use canned venison? It is really good in soups and stews where you’d normally use beef as well as in pasta dishes like stroganoff and spaghetti. We also make homemade pot pie and something we call venison patties (Shredded canned venison mixed with crushed Shredded Wheat, egg, and milk. Form into patties and fry in a pan with a little oil. Top with cream of mushroom soup.) The advantage of using the canned meat is that you save time by not having to cook the meat before meal prep.
As you may have guessed, venison is not the only meat you can can. The possibilities are endless, and having a pressure canner on hand will greatly increase the variety of things you can stock your pantry with (you can’t can everything in a boiling water canner). If you don’t have a pressure canner, I highly recommend borrowing one or spending the money on a new one. It will be well worth it. And don’t worry, modern pressure canners are made with several safety features to prevent them from exploding like they sometimes did 100 years ago.
Have a wonderful autumn and happy canning!!