Pressure canning venison: An alternative when the freezer is full

Pressure canning venison is the only safe canning technique.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, archery deer hunting season is from Oct. 1 to Nov. 14. Regular firearm deer hunting season is Nov. 15-30. The muzzleloading season is as follows: Zone 1: Dec. 4-13, Zone 2: Dec. 4-13, Zone 3: Dec. 4-20. Be sure to check on the regulations.

With the deer harvest season in full swing, what do you do when you run out of freezer space for that venison? Why not try canning the venison? Pressure canning of venison can be done safely, if the directions are followed carefully. 

Michigan State University Extension recommends washing hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and whenever you change a task. 

If you are using a dial gauge pressure canner, the gauge needs to be tested on a yearly basis. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find out where you can get the gauge tested.

Choose only high quality chilled venison for canning. In preparation for canning the venison, remove excess fat. The fat can give an off flavor to the canned product. Cut the venison into one-inch wide strips, cubes, or chunks.

The hot pack method for canning venison is preferred because it provides the best liquid coverage and quality during storage.

For the hot pack method:

Pre-cook the venison to the rare stage, by roasting, stewing or browning in a small amount of fat. Pack the hot meat loosely into hot jars, leaving about one-inch headspace. If desired add ½ teaspoon of salt per pint jar or one teaspoon of salt per quart jar. Fill the jar to one-inch from the top with boiling meat juices, broth, water, or tomato juice. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims. Adjust the lids and process according to the directions below.

Process the jars in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure or in a weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure. The processing time for pint jars is 75 minutes. The processing time for quart jars is 90 minutes. These processing times are for elevations less than 1000 feet above sea level.

For processing changes above 1000 feet above sea level look at other methods.

Although freezing produces a better product, ground or chopped venison can be canned. Since venison is so lean, it is necessary to add one part high quality pork fat to three or four parts venison before grinding the meat. To can freshly made sausage make sure it is seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper because sage may cause a bitter off-flavor when canned. 

For the hot pack method:

Shape the ground venison into patties or balls. Cut the cased sausage into three to four-inch links. It is possible to the sauteé ground meat without shaping it. The meat needs to be cooked until lightly browned. Remove any excess fat. Pack the meat loosely into hot jars. Be sure to leave one-inch headspace. Fill the jars to one inch from the top of the jar with boiling meat broth, water, or tomato juice. Add ½ teaspoon of salt per pint for taste if desired or one teaspoon of salt per quart for taste. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth. Adjust the lids and process. 

For processing in a dial gauge pressure canner use 11 pounds of pressure or use 10 pounds of pressure for a weighted gauge pressure canner.

The processing times are as follows:  Pint jars: 75 minutes

                                                            Quart jars: 90 minutes 

These processing pressures are for elevations below 1000 feet above sea level. For processing at elevations above 1000 feet above sea level check the online chart.

After the canning jars of meat have rested for 12-24 hours, remove the rings, wash, and air dry the jars. Storage should be in cool dry location.

Remember these food safety tips. Wash, rinse and sanitize all equipment, when preparing meat products. Wash the hands before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and fish and anytime they have touched something dirty. Venison is a time-temperture controlled for safety food product so avoid being in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours. 

By following these food safety tips and a standardized canning recipe for meat, you should be able to enjoy the venison during the cold winter months. So when you run out of freezer space while harvesting venison, try pressure canning it.

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