Canning Venison: Extend Canning Season

If you aren't canning venison, you're missing out. For years I've frozen my venison. First with freezer and butcher paper, then with a vacuum sealer. I was always happy with the results, and never had problems with freezer burn. Maybe it's just my nature as a worrier, but in the back of my mind I was always concerned that if my freezer crapped out I could lose all my venison. I started canning some of my venison several years ago and haven't looked back.

In addition to making the venison self-stable, canning venison is incredibly easy. Most reading this already have everything they need. Canning venison, or any meat, is a little more strict than canning vegetables. Once you know the guidelines, however, it's just as simple.

What you need to know about canning venison:

Only use a pressure canner. To rid the meat of bacteria that would spoil it while in storage, canned venison needs to processed at 240° F. Boiling water canners only achieve 212° F. If you don't already have a pressure canner for preserving your garden it might be worth the investment. If nothing else, you'll be able to pull double duty in July!

Trim the fat. Venison fat isn't as tasty as other fats, and doesn't add much to your canned venison. I trim the meat into one-inch cubes, or close, and trim as much fat as possible at this time. It also keeps the little white bits of congealed fat from floating in the jar.

Follow the directions. If you do much canning you probably have the Ball Jars Blue Book. If you don't you should buy it. Now. Your canner may have also come with something similar, that's fine too. Just don't wing it. Failure to properly can venison, or even vegetables, can lead to serious foodborne illness. Follow the directions carefully. My book says to process at 10 pounds pressure. Pints process for 75 minutes, quarts for 90. These are not suggestions. These are strict guidelines.

Don't crowd the venison. When canning venison be sure not to crowd the jar. Canning in a pressure canner is the same as pressure cooking, really. If the venison is too tightly packed into the jar, the meat won't process, or cook, as evenly as it should. Pack loosely, and do NOT add liquid. The venison is full of water, and the pressure canning process will bring it out.

Got stock? Not in Apple or Disney; venison stock. It's indistinguishable from beef stock, and makes for savory gravies, soups, and crock pot meals. If you have the pressure canner out already, and haven't already discarded all the bones from trimming the meat, consider making a batch of stock.

Stock made easy. Use the biggest pot you have, and find a few bones from the carcass that will fit in the pot. Dice one large onion, one bunch of celery, and a handful of carrots. Add those to the pot and add water. Season to your taste. I prefer stocks as meat-centric as possible, so it can be seasoned to the meal being prepared. That said, I do add a couple bay leaves. The longer you can simmer, the better. Never boil a stock while cooking, simmer. Shoot for three to four hours, at least. Remove solids. Pour into another pot through cheesecloth to strain out the rest. Let cool. Once cooled, a skim of fat may form. Remove the fat and bring to boil. Finally, fill jars and follow your canning book's directions for processing. Mine says process pints process 20 minutes, quarts 25, at 10 pound pressure.

Canning venison isn't hard, but it might take some equipment you don't have. Consider putting some of your venison in cans instead of the freezer this fall. It makes whipping up a batch of venison and noodles, or some shredded venison BBQ a snap.