After each successful hunt, we bring home meat for the freezer. We stock every nook and cranny until freezer space is whittled away, leaving us without storage for any other game we harvest as well as any grocery store buys. Although most would find no issue with a freezer full of meat, at some point it becomes necessary to find alternative means of venison preservation, such as pressure canning.
There are a lot of very good reasons to can deer meat aside from freeing up space in the freezer. One thing we don't always think about when freezing meat is the time it takes to defrost before being ready to prepare as part of a meal. So many times removing deer meat from the freezer is a task that is overlooked or, worse yet, meat does get taken out but is forgotten about and goes bad. This is not a problem you will run into when canning meat. Not only is it ready to eat at any time but it has longevity on its side when properly stored.
Chances are you've also run into scenarios where you've felt limited by what you can do with certain cuts of meat. Due to tenderness or lack thereof, some cuts are simply better for certain purposes than others, but canning will tenderize any cut and make it more versatile. Additionally, you can add seasoning that will flavor pressure canned meats ahead of time and cut them down specifically for your intended use making less work when it comes to later enjoyment.
In order to pressure can meat, there are is a set of steps you need to follow. First you must preheat the pressure canner and prepare the meat. The easiest way to do this is to cut meat into strips or possibly into cubes as these fit easily into a jar. Trim away any excess fat and remove bones. Once your meat is cut how you prefer, place it inside of the hot jars but do not add water as tempting as it may be to do so. The meat will produce juice all on its own so water is unnecessary. When filling jars, go ahead and add any salt, garlic, or any other seasonings that you prefer. Be sure to leave an inch of head space at the top and wipe the rims and tops of jars clean. Apply warm canning lids and screw bands to each jar before setting them into the pressure canner.
At this point you need to pay particular attention to the instructions for pressure canning low acid foods such as venison at your altitude. The reason for this is to ensure that all botulism spores are killed in the canning process. The required temperature to kill botulism is 240 degrees Fahrenheit and this temperature can only be achieved in a pressure cooker. If botulism makes it into canned foods, it will be able to grow inside over time and when consumed can be fatal. It is not visible to the naked eye and cannot be smelled. Botulism can cause paralysis, nerve damage and even death with just a small bite of tainted food, hence the necessity to closely follow instructions. Here is an altitude chart to guide you:
Photo: Canning Info Warehouse
In the end, you should have canned deer meat that has a consistent overall appearance. Liquid inside the jar should just cover the meat, leaving proper headspace. It should be absent of bubbles and other imperfections, having retained a tight seal. Pressure canned meat will be edible with optimum flavor for approximately a year when stored properly. Beyond that it may still be edible but not as tasty and at some point the can or lid may begin to degrade causing spoilage, so keep that in mind when making long term storage plans.
Is pressure canning deer meat part of your annual storage ritual? Do you have any seasonings you suggest adding or not adding to canned meat? Tell us about it in the comments!